A splendid and rare ethic tribal comb from Tanimbar Indonesia
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 9½ ins h x 4 ins w (24 x 10 cm) decorative part 5 ins h (15 cm)
MATERIALS: water buffalo bone
Here is a large and elaborate comb headdress from Tanimbar in the Maluku islands, which are an archipelago in eastern Indonesia. The ornament is very heavy and is carved in one piece from water buffalo bone. The close up pictures of the rear show the spongy consistency and tiny black marks which are typical of this material.
Reflecting the belief that the head is the seat of the soul, combs and head ornaments are particularly important in Indonesian jewellery. Among tribal societies beliefs associated with the corporal human body and soul were closely tied to the use of body ornamentation and jewellery. Traditional beliefs emphasize the spiritual protection of the person against bad influences, dangerous spirits, diseases and black magic. Such ornaments also convey status and authority within the community.
The comb is intricately carved from a large piece of solid material. The main feature in the center of the heading is the human figure whose breast is decorated by an elaborate necklace resembling creeper. Such human figures often appear on Tanimbar combs. The figure is holding aloft an element decorated with confronting naga dragons, rendered in almost zoomorphic style. Beneath are symbols of waves.
The final picture from Ethnic Jewellery from Indonesia, (B W Carpenter. EDM, 2011) shows a bride in her traditional finery, including back and side views of the combs and other decorations worn in her hair.
Among Indonesian tribal societies beliefs associated with the corporal human body and soul were closely tied to the use of body ornamentation and jewellery. Traditional beliefs emphasize the spiritual protection of the person against bad influences, dangerous spirits, diseases and black magic.
The ritual and spiritual life of the tribal Indonesian groups was founded on ancestor worship, as well as worship of the different nature spirits. The cycle of daily life was imbued with the belief that all things, both animate and inanimate, possessed a spirit and that these were potential allies or enemies.
The function of bodily ornamentation was never purely material. It communicated not only with humans but also with supernatural powers. In the earthly sphere it involved the communication of status, authority and legitimacy. This latter was directly connected to the power and prestige of the ancestors to families, clans and villages..
Most jewellery was not made for daily wear but for use during ceremonies. They were also closely linked with music and dance and rites of passage in the human cycle such as birth, coming of age, marriage and death. Examples of this can be seen in combs indicating marital status.
As part of the greater tapestry of Indonesian history and culture these ornaments offer valuable insights into a multi faceted land and its peoples.
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Carved wooden hair comb from Tanimbar, Indonesia hair accessory