Mamuli with Cockatoos

East Sumba


19th Century or earlier

2.25 x 2 in/5.5 x 5 cm


A superb mamuli of great mass, this earring-ornament served as part of a  ritual gift exchange between "bride givers" and "bride takers" during royal weddings. The mamuli shape is directly associated with the female sex and maybe equated with fertility but within the Sumbanese animistic belief system, marapu, there is also the recognition of the dualistic nature of all things, including heirloom gold jewelry. Mamulis of the type presented here, which feature the presence of anthropomorphic or zoomorphic miniature sculptures along the bottom extensions, would be identified as a "male mamuli", versus a "female mamuli" which would have no added decoration, just a simple omega form. Cockatoos were a motif restricted to the chiefly class confirming this piece belonged to a rajah's family.