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Archive of Terrance “Zak” Saklofsky and Toni Kennedy

It is with gratitude and respect that we are able to present this astonishing collection of early photos from the archive of late Terrance “Zak” Saklofsky and Toni Kennedy, his beloved wife. They are mainly prints from Borneo but also include famous images from the Batak and Nias cultures of Sumatra, and photos of ancestor figures in situ from the Lio area of Flores. Also seen is a group of early Korwar figures from Teluk Cenderawasih (Bird of Paradise Bay), formerly called during the Dutch era, Geelvink Bay, West Papua New Guinea.

Zak assembled this collection from various sources. He acquired many of the circa 1950s Dayak images (tribal images 1-40) from the Chinese studios located in Kuching and Sibu, Sarawak, and others from Netherlands sources. The Batak pictures (the next 41-47) are believed to be from the Tropen Museum of Amsterdam, as are some of the Nias images (48-60), while other are 19th Century photos from Modigliani, the cousin of the artist. The two photos showing ancestor figures in situ in the rafters of a traditional Flores house and the final image of Korwar ancestor sculptures from Biwak are famous but their sources are at this time unknown. Please note, we will make corrective updates as to attribution as information comes in.

I was first introduced to Toni in 1979 through mutual friends who loved Bali. We both lived in Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. She was flying around the planet as a flight attendant for World Airlines, which was one of the coolest jobs anyone could have because you could fly almost anywhere in the world for free in your off time. In those days there were not that many people around here who had spent time in Bali and we tended to meet one another through a network of like-minded friends who were passionate about Indonesia.

I confess to having had eyes for Toni, everybody did. She was so charming and beautiful but alas, that was a non-starter, for Toni was already married. All the guys were mighty envious of some fellow named Zak who was Toni’s husband, a man I had heard of but never met because he was always off making discoveries in Borneo or sailing to some remote outer islands in the Moluccas. I had become a serious collector and by the time Zak and I finally did meet, I discovered he had been the “secret source” of many of the fine masks, sculptures and textiles from Indonesia I had been buying from other dealers!

Zak Saklofsky was one of the great “field men” of his era. A degree-qualified anthropologist from Canada, he was an explorer, a cinematographer and a documentary film producer. He was “in the boat” as the primary guide and contributing filmmaker in the making of the award winning five film series, Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey, created with Lorne and Lawrence Blair.

I remember well visiting Zak at his grass house in Bali where he had just gotten back from Borneo. He said to me, “Tom I have just found two of the greatest masterpieces of my life…” And there before me stood a cave hampatong, like nothing I had ever seen. It is now in a Vienna private collection and recently published as plate 13 in Bernard de Grunne’s important book, Dayak 2 from Borneo. Next to it, an ancient longhouse ladder now at the Yale Art Gallery, promised gift of Thomas Jaffe: http://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/159854. He was also responsible for finding some of the greatest textiles from Sumba, Borneo and Lampung now dispersed in collections and museums around the world.

I last saw Zak in London as a surprise encounter at the famous Museum of Mankind, crouched down studying the surface of an ancient Hawaiian sculpture, another example of how we were curious about the same things. He was keenly interested in the Austronesian migration and he explained to me he was en route to Madagascar, the furthest point West of that expansion that included Indonesia and went all the way to Easter Island. Zak made that trip and continued on to Indonesia where he died prematurely of a weak heart in his sleep, March 10, 1984. Zak Saklofsky was only 37. Zak's life was short but he packed a lot of living in it. He left us way too soon but he and his contributions are not forgotten.

Toni is now happily re-married and living a completely different kind of life, she is partner with her husband in a contracting business. But she still treasures the memories of those days. Toni kindly made a surprise gift to me of all of Zak’s collection of early tribal photography and I share them now with you on her behalf and in memory of Zak with great thanks!