The Batak of northern Sumatra wear masks, which are also connected to the cult of the dead and funeral rites. Best known are those from the Toba-Batak group living in the vicinity of Toba Lake and on Samosir island, situated in this lake. The masks take the form of an elongated human face, equally wide from the upper edge down to the mouth. Some of the applied stylistic procedures are reminiscent of the Toraja Pemia masks. Those of the Toba-Batak are made of wood, colored black and slightly convex on the vertical axis. The horizontally-placed almond-shaped eyes are cut through, thus making possible good visibility, and the nose is long and narrow. The mouth is wide, arch-shaped, open and provided with two rows of carved teeth; the corners are uplifted in such a manner that the mask gives the impression of smiling. The arched peripheral line of the chin follows the line of the mouth. Protruding ears are carved at the sides and human hair is attached to the upper edge of the mask and the chin.
Dancers wearing this mask also used a pair of wooden arms. The mask was used to commemorate a deceased only son, which it represented. When entering the village, the son's mother welcomed and kissed it. The purpose of all of this was to win over the son's soul so that it might bless the mother in order that she would soon bear another son. Masks in the form of human faces, embodying the spirits of the dead, were also used among other Batak groups until as late as the first decade of the last century (20th). These masks, however, are most realistic and are stylistically divergent. They are more or less oval in shape, the hair, beard and eyebrows being simulated by means of human hair, pieces of furred animal skin or strings, and an effort at portraying the features of the person in question is obvious in them. When a Raja died, all his vassals attended the funeral, each accompanied by one or two dancers wearing these masks.
Friday, January 23, 2009