Pierre Nachbaur

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PAIR OF RITUAL DEMON HEADS (“SALANG RAKSASA”)

Lombok Island, Sasak People / 19th centuty / Jackfruit wood and rottan / 13,5 cm, 12 cm

The art and culture of the Sasak people, the original inhabitants of Lombok, the island due east of Bali, is notable because of the unusual blend of early Austronesian prototypes and Balinese Hinduism. As see in this very rare example of a pair of protective demon heads, and similar to Batak art and culture which was also impacted by Hinduism and Buddhism, the first impression given by Sasak art is oftentimes distinctly tribal.

Probably representing a hero pair of brothers, the holes on the bottoms of these two heads were used for the affixing of hangers, most probably strings of Chinese coins with square holes (kepeng) which have been used in Indonesia for commercial and ritual purposes since 12th century.

The Balinese also make such hangers known as 'salang', which are usually affixed to either side of a portal during religious ceremonies. The large bug eyes, fang, and ferocious expressions are intended to ward off malevolent influences. They are also related to the monster heads found on Dayak art. The various markings on the forehead could represent tattoos.