Figura de antepassado - Itara

Nº de referência da peça: 

Ancestor Figure - Itara
Sandalwood (?)
Portuguese Timor, late 19th–early 20th century
Dim.: 10,5 x 3,5 x 3,0 cm

Provenance: Alberto Telles de Hutra Machado collection since 1920. A.P.F Collection by Heritage

A beautiful little old Timor Island Ancestor Figure (Itara) from the Aitos area in the Portuguese Timor, dating from the 19th Century-early 20th century

This distinct style of the Aitos figures area is part of a large corpus of ancestor worship and art stretching all the way through Southeast Asia and the Indonesian archipelago and into the island of New Guinea. They represent the most important of the ritual carvings found in Timor.

Itara, meaning "distant ancestor", is a wooden figure used to honor the ancestors. They are made visible by these sculptures, who pass on the traditions of leaving, washing over their descendants to ensure that their customs are carefully followed and punish those who fail to conform to the ancient traditions.

These “Ancestors” played a significant role in rituals that honored ancestral spirits all over the land and instructed the Tetum people on all areas of daily life: the raising of cattle, agriculture, hunting & fishing, and architecture.

Itara sculptures, as this one, can normally stand in a top of a base-scepter, or in a ceremonial staff finial. They were often rendered in a Cubistic and minimalist sculptural style and feature a unique iconography. Such stylistic affinities with Modernism have made these figures very sought after by collectors in the late 19th–early 20th century but being from a very tiny island, and complex country, only a few survive.

Competition for sandalwood by the Portuguese and Dutch colonization, Christianity, and finaly East Timor’s independence war suggests that many art forms and their stylistic variations disappeare before they could be properly studied.


  • Arte Colonial e Oriental
  • Artes Decorativas
  • Diversos

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