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Ceremonial deity (bulul)

Ceremonial deity (bulul), approx. 1930. Philippines, Ifugao, Luzon Island. Wood and shell. Filipino Fund for Acquisitions and Museum Purchase, 2013.2. Photograph © Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

Ceremonial deity (bulul), approx. 1930. Philippines, Ifugao, Luzon Island. Wood and shell. Filipino Fund for Acquisitions and Museum Purchase, 2013.2. Photograph © Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

Carved statues of seated figures were significant in many island cultures of Southeast Asia, where they often represented ancestral deities. In the Philippines these statues, known as bulul, were carved in the highlands of the island of Luzon. Statues of this type played a part in the lives of the Ifugao people, especially in ceremonies related to growing rice. This figure sits with arms crossed over raised knees, staring straight ahead through small shell eyes. The thin line encircling his head represents a type of warrior’s headdress that was often made of wood. On ceremonial occasions the statue would have been dressed and adorned with jewelry. Between the figure’s legs, an indentation indicates the place where a textile would once have been wrapped as a loincloth around the lower body of the statue.

 

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