Grave sculpture (1) - Hardwood - funerary sculpture - Jarai - Vietnam

Grave sculpture (1) - Hardwood - funerary sculpture - Jarai - Vietnam
1st half 20th century - Good

The Jorai (also known as Jarai and Gia Rai) are a minority group in the central highlands of Vietnam. Their culture is matrilineal - their ancestry is traced through the mother rather than the father. Traditionally animistic, ancestor worship played a major role in the traditional Jorai culture.

Most of the figurative, Jorai sculptures refer to ancestor worship and burial rites. The resulting sculptures are known for their moving, time-worn forms.

This magnificent, large figure would have been part of a group, lined up around a Jorai gravesite. Traditional Jorai tombs comprise small hut-like structures, in which possessions of the deceased and offerings are placed. Such a statue was created for ceremonies that did not take place at the time of death, but often, a long time after burial. The tomb was decorated and then ‘left’ as part of this last farewell. Such statues adorned the gravesite on high poles, acting as spiritual guardians.

Made from weathered ironwood, it retains sharp facial features and wears a conical hat traditionally associated with Vietnamese rice farmers. These are known as nón lá (leaf hat). The figure is also wearing a distinctive belt. Overall, the dress has a colonial influence. Indeed, of the surviving Jorai funerary posts, this is an unusually beautiful example with its size, the crispness of the carving, the headwear and overall sculptural presence.
Today, there are fewer than 350,000 Jorai in Vietnam. They speak their own language, known as Jarai, a Malayo-Polynesian language.

Lot details
Total nr of items
Grave sculpture
Indigenous object name
funerary sculpture
Ethnic group/ culture
Region/ country
1st half 20th century
Sold with stand
63×28×21 cm
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