, Funerary spirit figure [kut] Enlarge 1 /1
Gia Rai, Bana or Radé people Funerary spirit figure [kut] late 19th-early 20th century Place made: central Vietnam, Vietnam
Materials & Technique: sculptures, teak
Dimensions: 84.0 h x 22.0 w x 20.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2005
Accession No: NGA 2005.355

This stylised image was made for a burial site of one of the smaller cultural groups of the central and northern highlands of Vietnam, probably the Gia Rai people. It is carved from teak and depicts a bird, possibly a peacock, perched on a pair of horns or tusks. For the animist Gia Rai people, funeral rites are particularly important in order to ensure the soul’s safe passage to the next world, to join the ranks of the deified spirits of ancestors.

Traditionally, an elaborate ceremony is performed approximately a year after a death. The ritual involves the construction of a large house-like tomb structure of wood and basketry. Located in the village of the dead, which is physically separate from the village of the living, these grave houses are marked by sculptures of human figures, birds and animals. The Gia Rai create figurative sculpture only for these secondary funeral rites. Representing animal spirits and providing a symbolic link with the heavenly realm of the ancestral spirits, bird sculptures are prominent at Gia Rai burial sites.
To allow both the living and the dead to move on, the graves are ritually abandoned after the ceremony and the images around them left to disintegrate.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

This stylised image was made for a burial site of one of the smaller cultural groups of the central and northern highlands of Vietnam, probably the Gia Rai (or Jorai) people. It is carved from teak and depicts a bird, possibly a peacock, perched on a pair of horns or tusks. For the animist Gia Rai people, funeral rites are particularly important in order to ensure the soul’s safe passage to the next world, to join the ranks of the deified spirits of ancestors.

Traditionally, an elaborate ceremony is performed approximately a year after a death. The ritual involves the construction of a large house-like tomb structure of wood and basketry. Located in the village of the dead, which is physically separate from the village of the living, these grave houses are marked by sculptures of human figures, birds and animals. The Gia Rai create figurative sculpture only for secondary funeral rites. Representing animal spirits and providing a symbolic link with the heavenly realm of the ancestral spirits, bird sculptures are prominent at Gia Rai burial sites.

To allow both the living and the dead to move on, the graves are ritually abandoned after the ceremony and the images around them left to disintegrate.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014