north Sumatra: the Batak

19th February – 11th May 2008

The public is invited to discover a collection of remarkable artefacts created by the Batak - a people long cut off from contact with the West. Deeply immersed in ancestral customs connected to the mythology of the origin of the world and natural forces, the Batak live in the north of the island of Sumatra, in a mountainous region cut through by steep valleys. The works on display (acquired from the former Barbier-Mueller collection in Geneva) give a fascinating glimpse of daily life among the Batak: living conditions, rituals, everyday utensils. Highly finished works, created with an evident care for ornamentation, the artefacts in the exhibition invite the visitor to lose themselves in the intricacy of their detail, to share in the secrets they contain.

Curatorial team

Pieter Ter Keurs, curator for Insular Southeast Asia at the National Museum of Ethnology of Leiden.
Constance de Monbrison, head of the musée du quai Branly's Insulindia collections.


Peter Horree
Tassilo Adam


In northern Sumatra: the Batak, edited by Pieter Ter Keurs, 96 pages, Musée du quai Branly/5 Continents co-publication

sommet de bâton de magicien © musée du quai Branly photo Patrick Gries
petit couteau avec manche et fourreau © musée du quai Branly photo Patrick Gries
ornement d'architecture © musée du quai Branly photo Patrick Gries