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This striking panel derives from Toraja, Sulawesi and was carved sometime during the 1800’s. It was once part of the wall for a traditional Torajan building called Tongkonan which is an ancestral house.
To the Torajan, the Tongkonan is more than just a house. It is the center of their social and spiritual life - the focus of ritual life and the symbol of their family identity and tradition. Since ancient times the Torajans carve wood to express social and religious concepts, calling it Pa’ssura, which means “the writing.”
The Tongkonan stand high on wooden piles, with dramatic, arched roofs. They are typically carved and painted with red, black and yellow detaileds on the outside walls where each motif has a secial meaning.
This particular motif is called Nec Limbongan which means “The source of Life”
There are many rituals associated with the Tongkonan, and because the structure represents links to their ancestors, most involve the participation of entire families.
According to Torajan myth, the first Tongkonan was built in heaven on four poles with a roof made from Indian cloth. When the first Torajan descended to earth, he imitated the house and held a large ceremony. Unfortunately, today very few houses are being rebuilt as the Toraja themselves are subject to the increasing pressures of modernization and the abandonment of their old belief systems.