A gold 'monkey' mamuli ear ornament or pendant East Sumba Island, Indonesian archipelago, 19th century | 十九世紀 印尼群島 松巴島東 靈猴紋mamuli金耳飾
Property from the Tuyet Nguyet and Stephen Markbreiter Collection 雪月藏亞洲藝術珍品
Property from the Tuyet Nguyet and Stephen Markbreiter Collection
A gold 'monkey' mamuli ear ornament or pendant
East Sumba Island, Indonesian archipelago, 19th century
十九世紀 印尼群島 松巴島東 靈猴紋mamuli金耳飾
h. 10.2 cm, 101.7 grams
Left ear of one monkey missing. Signs of wear and minor dents to the metal, consistent with age, as viewed.
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The Sumbanese believed precious metals had a celestial origin. The sun is made of gold, while the moon and stars are of silver. Gold and silver are deposited on Earth when the sun and moon set or shooting stars fall from the sky. Sumbanese regarded ornaments made of gold as a symbol of divine favour. They would commission gold jewellery to be used as ancestral heirlooms, and to ascend the social ladder by displaying these heavenly treasures at celebrations.
Among them, Mamuli, usually made of gold or silver, are one of the most important ornaments typically used in the exchange of gifts associated with marriages and alliances. They were worn as ear ornaments when the Sumbanese practised artificial earlobe extension, but they could also be worn as a neck pendant.
Mamuli also embodied Sumbanese's dualistic belief in cosmology: heaven and earth, male and female. It takes after the shape of omega (Ω), a fertility symbol representing female genitalia; the animals at the base represent the male aspect. In lot 1027, we have two whimsical monkeys, skilfully constructed with rotatable bodies, movable heads and arms. While in lot 1070, we have water buffaloes and Sumba-native cockatoos.
Sumbanese's mamuli has become so well-known that the omega form is often referred to by its Sumbanese name mamuli across Indonesia.