funeral rites

Funeral rites play a privileged, not to mention primordial role in man’s relationship with what is sacred. 

Through their rich ceremonies they underline the point to which death is present and accepted in non-western societies where the deceased, who will become ancestors, are an integral part of life.

This close relationship between the living and the dead very often passes through a vast exchange system that is symbolic, spiritual and physical all at once and manifests itself through offerings and is embodied in the moulded sculpture, a sign of durability and object of memory.


  • Ceremonial Sculpture

    Ceremonial Sculpture

  • Ancestral Skull

  • Headdress Mask

  • Reliquaire zoomorphe (poisson), crâne

    Zoomorphic (fish) Reliquary, Skull

  • Funeral Effigy

  • Funeral Mannequin

  • Mourner's Mask

  • Funeral Ceremony

  • Bronze Funeral Drum

  • Funeral Statue

  • Anthropomorphic Statues

  • Anthropomorphic Mask

  • Reliquary Guardian Statuette

  • Skull Representation

  • Anthropomorphic Funeral Post

  • Female Figure

  • Funeral Bag

  • Pedestal Bowl, With Zoomorphic Decoration

  • Bowl

  • Funeral Mask

  • Funeral Urn

Funeral Effigy

Funeral Effigy

Funeral Effigy, Tau Tau, Indonesia, Sulawesi, Toraja Region, Sa'dan Toraja Population, Wood Jacquier, Cotton, White Chalk Pigments, Black Soot Pigment, 20th Century, 169 x 50 cm, 70.2001.207.318.1-13, Former Collection of the Barbier-Mueller Museum, Geneva

For the Sa'dan Toraja, "tau tau" means "small person," or "like a person." Sculpted from wood jacquier, and articulated with the help of wooden pegs, the effigy is brought to life by a poem, "to minaa," that is sung by the priest. Once consecrated, it takes in the shadow, or the deceased's soul ("bombo"), and turns into that person's double. Like the deceased, it receives offerings of food, betel and palm wine. During the procession that carries the deceased to his final resting place, the "tau tau" follows the cortege on top of a richly decorated palanquin. It is then placed at the tomb's entrance from which it looks out over the world of the living. The Toraja funeral rituals are extremely elaborate. To help "the shadow" of the highly ranked deceased achieve the status of ancestor, the family has to carry out a series of rites of passage. Once the cycle of ceremonies is over, the dead person enters the rank of "deified ancestor" and stops his wandering. But, to reach this goal, the living must respect the rules, stage by stage, rite after rite. Toraja funerals adhere to a series of carefully regulated steps, each of which requires a substantial expenditure of wealth. Therefore, it is the nobles, people who have a certain rank, or sufficient wealth, who are the ones who were able to order the presence of a "tau tau." It is not unusual to observe a very long lapse of time between the actual death and the funeral. In the interim, the cadaver is wrapped in a lot of textile cloths and is thought of as being sick.