Brian Stephenson Fine Art

Indonesian Tribal Art
Batak Fertility Figure

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Batak Toba stone female fertility figure clutching a newly born child between her legs


Item-Description:Batak Toba stone female fertility figure clutching a newly born child between her legs
Medium:Toba Tuff
Origin:North Sumatra - Batak Toba
Dimensions:Height 60 cm
Age:Early 19th century
Provenance:Collected Sumatra 1984
Condition:Weathered patina
Notes:Before their conversion to Christianity in the late 19th early 20th century, by Dutch and German missionaries, the Batak of North Sumatra were a warlike and strongly animistic and cannibalistic culture with deeply held beliefs in magic and the world of spirits. Much of this belief was expressed via a wealth of both wood and stone carvings, many of which still survive to present day. Stone sculptures were used around tombs as grave effigies, as village guardian figures, as fertility figures and for other ritual and spiritual purposes. Many of the human like stone figures are found with their heads severed, a process instigated by the early Dutch colonists in an attempt to suppress the objects supposed supernatural and magical powers. However, stone sculpture still remains of great significance to the Batak even today, believed to help protect against evil, sickness, malevolent magic and to protect against outside attack.

This example is an early 19th century Batak Toba female fertility figure sculptured in local volcanic tuff (Toba Tuff, produced during the eruption of Lake Toba approximately 70,000 years ago). The head was previously severed but is now re-attached. It was field collected near the shores of Lake Toba in 1984.

The figure shows an expressive face, prominent breasts and a small newly born child clutched between its legs. It was most probably worshiped as an aid to conception or to protect a mother during child birth.

Exhibited: Important Tribal Sculpture from Sumatra, Borneo and The Celebes, Sonoma County Museum, Santa Rosa, California, 1 October to 30 November, 1986.

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