Wayang is a performance tradition in Indonesia that includes live actor performances and puppet shows of two kinds, wayang kulit and wayang golek.
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Title: Sumatran Lion Figure
Creation Date: Before 1927
Collection Date: Between 1895 and 1927
Acquisition Date: July 25, 1927
Material: iron metal (?), fibre, clay and shell
MoACAT #: B199
Accession Number: 2191/0393
Location: Not on Display
The selection of materials for this item is of particular interest to me. Constructed, apparently, exclusively from seashells (save for its wiry tail and fibrous whiskers), it takes the shape of an animal not associated with the sea in Western cultures, but one whose nobility may suit representation in the form of glittering opulence afforded by its creator: a lion. I am intrigued by the choices made in its construction process: for example, why fibrous whiskers but no fibrous mane? The teeth, represented by rounded shells in opposition to the lion’s sharp canines, highlight the gaping maw that is sandwiched between two shells. The red colour of the whiskers also contrasts the black shells selected to represent the lion’s mane.
Beyond the striking nature of the materials used in creating this piece, I was drawn in by the sheer amount of features able to be represented by these materials. Immediately I began to wonder if there was a tradition of making figures in this style, and am eager to discover if this is the case through research. Additionally, the range of dates for the belonging’s initial collection pique my curiosity as to the patterns and changes in artisanal traditions in Sumatra at the time, and I wonder if mapping these changes through further inquiry could help to narrow this range. Finally, the eyes of this piece, though constructed only with shells, have a piercing quality to them that I found personally interesting.