Function: From kaya, “up towards the mountain”, i.e. the volcano Gunung Agung, the abode of the gods and the heavenly sphere, flows forces of blessing down to the humans. In the opposite direction lies kelod “down towards the sea”, which is seen as a home of evil spirits and destructive powers which emanate from the underworld. In Balinese cosmology equilibrium is thought to prevail between these two poles, divine and demoniac, upper world and lower world, order and chaos. If this state is disturbed the cosmic powers become unbalanced and evil spirits and demons may roam freely. To restore the equilibrium the menacing and dangerous must be neutralised. Several Balinese dance dramas serve exactly this purpose to control and force back evil spirits. This happens for example in the dance drama Calon Arang. The main character in the drama is Rangda, the wrathful, destroying side of the widow Calwanarang from Girah. Furious that no man dares to marry her beautiful daughter because of the mother’s knowledge of black magic she turns to the death goddess Durga to receive her permission for vengeance. With Durga’s help she is transformed into the terrible witch Rangda that spreads pestilence and destruction across the country. Rangda is rendered harmless by the wise and holy Mpu Bharadah, who kills her demoniac self and thus delivers her. A south Balinese village usually owns two Rangda masks. One is kept in the village temple, Pura Desa, the other in the underworld temple, Pura Dalem. These masks have been carved directly from a growing kapok tree. At an consecration ceremony the masks are “charged with power”. The power is connected with the underworld and the death goddess. That is why a consecrated mask is dangerous. At the same time the Rangda masks protect the village from destructive, evil and sickness generating powers, which they chase away with their mere presence. The Rangda figure thus has a beneficial side.Acquisition Acquired by Åke Kistner (1908-1976). Between 1937 and 1939 he lived in Bali, where he during the two first years brought together a sizeable collection which he donated to the Museum of Ethnography, Stockholm.Why this is a masterpieceThis particular mask has been chosen as an example of similar wooden objects from Bali exemplifying that kind of "art" before it became popular with tourists and masks were turned out in large quantities for the tourist market.History of the ObjectHistory before the acquisition made by Åke Kistner not known. Since 1938 it has been with the Museum of Ethnography. (Virtual Collection of Masterpieces, http://masterpieces.asemus.museum/Default.aspx)


  • Title: Mask
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1800/1937
  • Physical Dimensions: w190 x h230 mm
  • Type: Mask
  • Rights: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/se/
  • Subject: Rangda, the embodiment of a witch par exellence, with protruding, wide-open eyes, wild mane-like hair, a mouth with a row of large upper incisors and huge, curved canines; rangda, with a bright red, flaming tongue that, like her flaccid breasts, hangs down to the magical hip cloth which protects her from pointed weapons...But who is rangda for the Balinese? Above all, she is a great theatrical figure, a pamurtian character, i.e. a mask increased to superhuman proportions, which always appears when a fight between right and left breaks out on magical territory. Thus Durga occasionally uses her body and the widow Calon Arang in the drama of the same name fights in the form of a rangda against the exorcist priest Mpu Paradah, who for his part can take on the shape of the barong.Barong and Rangda are by no means inseparably connected and play completely independent roles in various rites. While the figure of rangda can probably be traced back to Tantric magic practices of the Singhasari period, the origins of the barong are uncertain; but Chinese-Buddhist influences may certainly be taken into consideration. In this case one must in all likelihood look outside Bali for the cultural-historical roots of both figures. The fact that both of them are missing in the Old Balinese viallges also suggests this. (Ramseyer, Urs. 1977. s.190)
  • Provenance: Bali, Indonesia
  • Place Part Of: Indonesia

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