Mamuli Heirloom Ornament



19th/early 20th Century

2.5 inches

Sumba excelled at the creation of gold ornaments, mamuli being the best known. They are shaped in a characteristic omega form which represents the female genitalia and thereby fertility. But this feminine construct is balanced as the cosmos must be, with “male” buffalos, which are not only masculine but symbolize great wealth. The bird on the back can be understood to be both whimsical and humorous but also offering a reminder to the wise that ancestors are transformed into omen birds, and hence this composition may be understood to have a multi-valanced meaning.