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The Ancestral Statuary of Tana Toraja

            The article titled "Rape of the Ancestors: Discovery, Display and Destruction of the Ancestral Statuary of Tana Toraja," is written by Eric Crystal. He argues that ancestral images are considered extremely important in Southeast Asia and the Western countries are exploiting their power by stealing these images for their selfish use while the government sits back and watches it happen. He uses the example of the tau tau from Indonesia to further prove his point. .
             Tau tau is a type of effigy made from bamboo or wood, depending on the class of the individual and it is particular to the Toraja ethnic group in Indonesia. The word tau in Torajan means 'man', and tau tau means 'men' or 'statue.' It is a lifelike wooden puppet that represents the hidden soul of the deceased, which resides in the vicinity of the ceremony until several weeks after interment (Crystal 31). The tau tau statues are immensely personal and the families even give it a name. They are the property of the family members who paid for it and they take great pride because it shows their status in the society. "Despite stylistic variations, "they convey a common feeling about the magical potency of supernatural or deified human beings" (Crystal 29) Tau Tau statues in limestone cliff galleries, manifesting the social status of the deceased, intergenerational continuity, and ethnic identity of this minority mountain people. They project both the shadow of death, as the image escorts the soul of the deceased to the burial site, the image of the life. .
             In 1966, the government of Indonesia opened up to tourism and the first theft of the ancestral statue was recorded in 1971. Within the following decade, burial sites of eighty-three villages had been wiped clean. The author gives an example of how some European art dealers had assigned agents who would survey burial sites, take pictures and send it back for their clients to choose from.

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