The horse that carries the soul

In traditional Timorese culture, the cult of the dead makes use of replacement figures. The horse carries the soul of the dead, from the earthly world to the land of the ancestors

Equestrian sculpture Equestrian sculptureMuseu do Oriente

Equestrian sculpture

East Timor (Oecussi), c. 1940.

Used in agriculture and warfare, the horse takes on an important role as means of transportation, bringing communities closer together. It is not surprising, therefore, that it is associated with funerary rituals, carrying the dead from the world of the living.

Equestrian sculpture Equestrian sculptureMuseu do Oriente

A symbol of social status, the horse has two traditional symbols of power inscribed on its haunches: the masculine principle, represented by the solar disk (belak) and the feminine principle, expressed in the crescent (kaebauk).

Although opposed, the two principles complement each other and, together, they represent Maromak, the sole and supreme god of traditional Timorese religion, as well as the dualities that make up the Universe: man/woman; night/day; truth/lie.

Equestrian sculpture Equestrian sculptureMuseu do Oriente

At traditional funerals, common until the 1970s, the horse of the deceased accompanied him during the ceremonies. In order to follow its master in the afterlife, the horse was then sacrificed. 

Credits: Story

© Fundação Oriente - Museu do Oriente

OLIVEIRA, Alexandre, “Estátua Equestre” In, Presença Portuguesa na Ásia. Testemunhos, Memórias, Coleccionismo, 2008, pp. 255-258

Photography: Gonçalo Barriga; OnShot/Rui Carvalho

Credits: All media
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