Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Puppet Head (Si Gale-gale)

late 19th–early 20th century
Indonesia, Sumatra, Sumatra
Toba Batak people
Wood, copper alloy, lead alloy, water buffalo horn, paint
H: 11 1/4 in. (28.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Fred and Rita Richman, 1987
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 355
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.
[Jim Willis, San Francisco, until 1977]; Fred and Rita Richman, New York, 1977–1987

Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, 115, 199-200, 202.

Kjellgren, Eric. "The Pacific Resurfaces: New Galleries for Oceanic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Tribal Art (Winter 2007–2008), p. 104, 13.

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