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Sacred carving (jaraik) with monkey skull

c. 1930

Dallas Museum of Art

Dallas Museum of Art

"For a brief time, this piece hung over our fireplace. Its spectral spirit loomed over the entire house while dominating the living room. It flew. It danced. It is great sculpture and it feels alive. We joked that with its wild qualities, this "jaraik" was the ultimate sentinel, a combination of a mean junkyard dog and an all-seeing protective spirit.

"Think for a moment of a gargoyle protecting a church or adorning an architectural structure in Western culture. Then consider in comparison just how effective this carving would have been as a protective device hung in a traditional Mentawaian "uma," or house. Its claws, those tentacles, like a creature spawned from a 1950s sci-fi movie, slither, writhe, grasp, and reach out in a dramatic otherworldly fashion. It is not hard to imagine this guardian figure probing, testing your intent as it seemingly brushes or touches your being. The mouth is muzzled. There is a question of controlled violence. Does it caress or bite?

"For its original owners, this mythical animal offered both physical and psychic protection. As a cosmic symbol, it suggests the separation of an 'upper' and 'lower' world. Within the center of these two polarities exists a space for humans, in this case the Mentawaian people, to live harmoniously." —Steven G. Alpert

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Details

  • Title: Sacred carving (jaraik) with monkey skull
  • Date Created: c. 1930
  • Physical Dimensions: Overall: 70 x 56 1/2 x 12 in. (177.8 x 143.5 x 30.48 cm.)
  • Type: Sculpture
  • External Link: https://www.dma.org/object/artwork/5323974/
  • Medium: Wood, mother-of-pearl, plant fibers, macaque skull, and rattan strips
  • Credit Line: Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

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