Dayak Figure

Dayak, northeastern Borneo
mid 18th–19th century

Object Place: Borneo, Indonesia


Overall: 91 x 51 x 27.5 cm (35 13/16 x 20 1/16 x 10 13/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, shells

On View

Arts of Asia, Oceania, and Africa Gallery (Gallery 177)


Africa and Oceania



With wide eyes, exposed teeth and a squat, powerful body, this figure is a powerful guardian. The concave planes of the face emphasize the forcefully projecting curves of the chest and shoulders. Made of ironwood, this sculpture was difficult to carve but would have endured the elements in the rainforest region of Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. Figures like this one were used on coffins or on posts outside of villages or homes, where they guarded inhabitants against illness and misfortune borne by evil spirits and against the attacks of enemy raiders.


December 16, 1988, sold by Tambaran Gallery, New York, to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1994, partial gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA; 2014, acquired fully with the bequest of William Teel to the MFA. (Accession Dates: January 26, 1994 and February 26, 2014)

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel