Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Ritual Seat for a Noble (Osa' osa)

19th century
Indonesia, Sumatra, Gomo and Tae River region
Ono Niha people
H. 27 1/4 x W. 50 x D. 30 1/4 in. (69.2 x 127 x 76.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Jean Paul and Monique Barbier-Mueller, 1988
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 355
The people of Nias Island off the southwest coast of Sumatra are renowned for their monumental stone carving. Much of Nias stone sculpture is commemorative in nature—created to honor members of the nobility, both living and dead. Ritual stone seats (osa' osa) are unique to the central region of the island; they serve as chairs for high-ranking nobles at feasts and other ceremonial occasions, where they are set up near the home of the feast giver as a sign of his or her exalted rank. This example is of a type called "hornbill" (gogowaya), named for a large bird important in many Indonesian and Melanesian cultures. The "hornbill" here is depicted not as a discrete species but as a mythical animal that combines the teeth of a fearsome carnivore and the antlers of a deer with the distinctive beak, crest, and tail of the hornbill. The result is a composite creature, which acts as a fearsome protector of the nobility and their ancestors.
#1757. Ritual Seat for a Noble (Osa' osa)
#1185. Kids: Ritual Seat for a Noble (Osa' osa)
For Audio Guide tours and information, visit
[Emile Deletaille, Brussels, Belgium]; Jean Paul and Monique Barbier-Mueller, Geneva, Switzerland, until 1988

Hämmerle, Johannes M. "Die Megalithkultur im Susua-Gomo-Gebiet, Nias." Anthropos vol. 79 (1984), pp. 587–625, see p. 610.

Barbier, Jean-Paul, and Douglas Newton. Islands and Ancestors: Indigenous Styles of Southeast Asia. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988.

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, no. 123, pp. 211–212.

Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, p. 103.

Related Objects

Ritual Seat for a Noble (Osa' osa)

Artist: Date: 19th century
Accession Number: 1988.125.1
Date: 19th century Medium: Stone Accession: 1988.125.1 On view in:Gallery 355

Statue of Gudea

Artist: Date: ca. 2090 B.C.
Accession Number: 59.2
Date: ca. 2090 B.C. Medium: Diorite Accession: 59.2 On view in:Gallery 403

Standing male figure

Artist: Date: ca. late 1st millennium B.C.
Accession Number: 1982.317.3
Date: ca. late 1st millennium B.C. Medium: Alabaster (gypsum) Accession: 1982.317.3 On view in:Gallery 406

Container for Magical Substances (Naga Morsarang)

Artist: Date: 19th–early 20th century
Accession Number: 1987.453.1
Date: 19th–early 20th century Medium: Water buffalo horn, wood Accession: 1987.453.1 On view in:Gallery 355

Relief panel

Artist: Date: ca. 883–859 B.C.
Accession Number: 32.143.3
Date: ca. 883–859 B.C. Medium: Gypsum alabaster Accession: 32.143.3 On view in:Gallery 401