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Sulawesi Cast Copper Alloy Talismanic Pendant (Taijanja)

Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
circa 18th century

height: 4.1cm, width: 2.8cm, weight: 20g



UK art market

The talismanic pendant is from central Sulawesi (formerly, the Celebes) in Eastern Indonesia. It is part of a highly unusual group of ornaments cast by the lost wax method in Sulawesi that were used as ceremonial regalia and as wedding gifts from the groom’s family to the bride’s. The hollowed centre is believed to represent the female genitalia and the horn-like elements on the top are to represent buffalo horns, and those on the sides, the pincers of crabs (Taylor & Aragon, 1991, p. 194). The shape is a legacy of much earlier Austronesian heritage – similarly shaped ornaments are found among the Austronesian-speaking peoples of Luzon in the southern Philippines to the peoples of north Sumatra to the Tanimbar Archipelago in Indonesia (Benitez-Johannot, 2007. p. 230).

The taijanja here could have been worn as a pendant but also attached to a headdress. Sometimes such examples were worn by transvestite shamans during public ceremonies, but also by adolescent girls during puberty rights. They became heirloom items and later tended to be kept almost as sacred objects rather than being worn.

For a very similar example in the Smithsonian, see Taylor & Aragon (1991, p. 192).

The item is stable and with two eyelets at the top for suspension allowing it to be readily worn as a pendant.


Benitez-Johannot, P. (ed.), Paths of Origins: The Austronesian Heritage in the Collections of the National Museum of the Philippines, the Museum Nasional Indonesia and the Netherlands Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, ArtPostAsia, 2007.

Taylor, P.M. & L.V. Aragon, Beyond the Java Sea: Art of Indonesia’s Outer Islands, National Museum of Natural History/Harry N. Abrams, Inc,1991.

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