Friday, June 22, 2007

Puppet head (si galegale)


Puppet head (si galegale), 19th–20th century Indonesia, Sumatra, Batak, Toba Batak people.
Wood, metal, horn, paint; H. 11 1/4 in. (28.6 cm)
Gift of Fred and Rita Richman, 1987 (1987.453.6)

A unique tradition within Batak sculpture are the puppets known as si galegale. In former times, si galegale appeared at funerals, where they served as stand-ins for the sons of men who had no male children to perform their mortuary rites. Moved by a complex system of internal strings controlled by a puppeteer, si galegale participated in funerary dances alongside the deceased's family. With the aid of moistened balls of moss inside its head, some were even able to shed tears for their dead fathers.

This si galegale's head is beautifully carved with delicate facial features, with inlaid eyes made of lead and pupils of resin. The curving eyebrows are inlaid with pieces of water buffalo horn, and the ears are adorned with brass ear ornaments, known as sitepal.

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