A man is cutting a boy's hair with a bamboo knife


Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen

Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen

Photo opportunity
Many of the photos taken on the expedition are by expedition member G.A.J. van der Sande. He may well have taken this picture, although there were other photographers. On the left is a tripod of another man with a camera. The scene with the man and the boy was apparently a staged photo.

The Tropenmuseum possesses a painted life-size plaster sculpture depicting the man and the boy in the photo. Sculptor Kees Smout made it for the Colonial Museum in 1918. It was displayed in 1923. This was in an exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of the reign of Queen Wilhelmina at the new Colonial Museum building, which officially opened three years later. The figure of the naked Papuans occupied a prominent place amid various plaster casts of faces of inhabitants of the Indonesian island of Nias, severed heads (headhunting trophies), weapons and other objects with which the museum presented these primitive cultures as comparable to Europeans of the Stone Age.

Text board
A text board announced that this was a ‘Papuan Shaving his Child’. The figures portrayed here were anonymous. They were not intended as a portrait of individual people with their own identity but as examples of what were known at the time as 'ethnic types'. Ethnographic museums featured numerous sculptures and mannequins like this with titles such as ‘Dayak’ or ‘Bushman’. Kees Smout’s sculpture has long been consigned to the museum attic. A letter written by Smout was recently discovered from which it transpires that he actually had names for his figures: Mitje and Batjo. Whether these were his own invention is impossible to tell. Either way, they never found their way onto the text board.

9 x 12cm (3 9/16 x 4 3/4in.)

Source: collectie.tropenmuseum.nl

Show lessRead more


  • Title: A man is cutting a boy's hair with a bamboo knife
  • Date: 1903/1903
  • Location: Asei


Translate with Google