Bahau Dayak, East Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, circa 1900
Wood, pigments, cane, feathers
42 cm without feathers
Provenance : private collection, Bali
Acher Eskenasy, Paris
Among the various Dayak peoples of the Upper Mahakam River area, dance festivals were held shortly a er sowing to ensure the proper growth of young rice plants. The young mask-wearers entered the village by the river or the forest dressed in large mantles of banana leaves hand-made in the forest in the utmost secrecy. The masks are thus brought out to symbolise the passage from nature to cultivation serving both as scarecrows to ward o evil spirits and as incarnation of spirits who had come down to earth to bless and protect the harvest.
The hudoq mask combines the sparkling polychromy of delicate arabesques with extremely stylised forms and exaggerated features. Composed of mixed elements that borrow from zoomorphic and anthropomorphic repertories to emphasize its ferociousness, hudoq’s purpose is to frighten and reassure, inspiring a mixture of respect, pleasure, and fear.
The most prestigious type of hudoq is the composite dragon-hornbill mask, such as the present example. This very old mask is characterized by superb proportions and re ned polychromy made from natural pigments. It retains its woven rattan hat decorated with feathers of the great argus pheasant.