Most of the ancestor figures in our collection are carved representations of actual people who have passed away. Their likeness to the individual is captured as much by their physique and posture as by their facial features. Most were probably carved by a close family member rather than a village artisan, and are therefore stylistically naïve or have a primitive feel to them. All have a sense of natural dignity and integrity about them…and some feel quite magical!
Ancestor figures not only represent particular deceased family members but also serve as receptacles for their spirits when summoned during rituals. It is believed that deceased ancestors are able to mediate with the supernatural world on behalf of living descendants, and are able to support and guide them in matters of health, love and success. Some of the more refined ancestor carvings listed here in pairs may be symbolic or generic ancestor-types carved for household shrines and ceremonial use…and may, or may not, represent specific individuals.
The ancestor figures listed here were personally collected at source on the Indonesian island of origin…often from local traders and antique dealers who acquired them from villagers. There are many reasons why these ancestor carvings might have been abandoned or sold…renewal, the extinction of a family line, transmigration and the decline of cultural traditions, or simply that more modern forms of representation, photos and videos, have become fashionable.
We have collected Indonesian wooden ancestor figures for over 25 years…but enough is enough! And as I draw closer to my own ancestors it’s time to part with the collection. They look great displayed in groups!
Afterthought: If these carved figures are the repositories for ancestral spirits, then collecting abandoned ancestor figures is strangely akin to gathering up and safely re-homing orphans. How nice!