Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Ritual Staff (Tunggal Panaluan)

Date:
19th–early 20th century
Geography:
Indonesia, Sumatra
Culture:
Toba Batak people
Medium:
Wood, cotton, horse hair
Dimensions:
D. 66 in. (167.6 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
Gift of Fred and Rita Richman, 1988
Accession Number:
1988.143.89
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 355
When performing ceremonies, Batak datu (religious specialists) frequently employed ritual staffs known as tunggal panaluan. During the ceremonies, the datu entered into a trance and danced and performed other actions while holding the staffs, whose supernatural powers assisted in curing ceremonies, divination, malevolent magic, and other tasks. Tunggal panaluan depict a sequence of human and animal figures positioned on top of one another. The two figures at the top represent a legendary twin brother and sister, whose incestuous relationship, according to oral tradition, was responsible for the origin of the staffs. After their relationship was discovered, the twins fled to the forest and encountered a tree hung with fruit. As the brother climbed the tree to pick fruit for his sister, he merged with it, becoming a wood image. His sister followed and met the same fate. Attempting to rescue them, a succession of datu and animals climbed the tree, transforming into the figures that appear below the ill-fated twins. The tree was later cut down, becoming the first tunggal panaluan.
Ben Tursch, Brussels, Belgium, 1976–1977]; [Alain Schoffel, Paris, 1977–1978]; Fred and Rita Richman, New York, 1978–1988

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