Memorial Grave Marker, Sumba Island, Lesser Sunda Islands
height 88in (223.5cm)
Private Collection, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Cf. Schefold (2013: fig. 78)
According to George Ellis (ibid: p. 234), "On both East and West Sumba, monumental stone tombs are placed at the ceremonial center of traditional villages. These impressive tombs are the final resting place of noblemen who commanded extraordinary reverence and respect both in life and in death. In the west, these tombs were commissioned by the owner during his lifetime, but in East Sumba, this responsibility fell to the son after his father's death, including shouldering the considerable expense.
The construction of these tombs involved the marshaling of considerable resources. First the stone had to be acquired form the owners of quarries along the coast. The stone, weighing from ten to thirty tons, then had to be transported, a task that sometimes involved movement over both water and land. This task necessitated the labor of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people. Following the arrival of the stone at the entrance of the ceremonial village, prescribed rituals were conducted, followed by feasting. Afterward, the stone was carved with finishing motifs and designs appropriate to its geographic location and as dictated by the family...
...Although some penji remain on Sumba, many have been sold and transferred to museums and collections outside the country. The technical achievement and aesthetic appeal of these exceptional sculptures are acknowledged by a global audience."
Erected in the memory of a great nobleman, the present marker depicts the nobleman, carved ear ornaments (mamuli), whales and horse with a rider.