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Loan Object

Memorial Gravestone (Penji)

19th century


215.9 × 101.6 × 16.51 cm (85 × 40 × 6 1/2 in.)
base: 10.16 × 110.49 × 60.01 cm (4 × 43 1/2 × 23 5/8 in.)
Promised gift of Thomas Jaffe, B.A. 1971
Throughout the island of Sumba, stone graves are erected for deceased noblemen. Building a grave tests the wealth and power of local leaders, as collecting the required resources is a challenge. Each grave includes a large headstone called a penji (banner). The limestone rocks used in grave construction, weighing from ten to thirty tons, often come from distant quarries. They are lifted onto a wooden platform called a tena (ship) and dragged with vine ropes to the hilltop villages. A textile is hung from the top of the ship as the “mast,” guiding it to the village. Hundreds of participants help to drag the stone, and they are urged on by songs that recount the travels of ancestral heroes.
Made in Sumba, Indonesia
Not on view
19th century

Seller: Perry Kesner (2012-04-28)

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.