Vintage Spirit Ancestor Mask with Hair, Indonesia, Timor (1211YKM)


H: 12.5″  W: 8.625″  D: 2.75″

Timor masks like this are rare and characterized by large roughly cut eyes, the absence of some teeth and the remaining ones being menacing. They are stored in the rafters above the house hearth accounting for their smokey black color. Often decorated with animal hide with hair, the facial hair pieces have either not darkened fully in the rafters or, when placed on top of each other, did not darken evenly. Frequently looking threatening due to the black color, missing teeth and their frequent lack of balance, these ancestral masks are used in offering rituals designed to drive off malevolent spirits.


This rare vintage ancestor spirit mask with hair (Beoto Makahuk) is from West Timor in the Archipelago the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia. Religion there has been characterized by Barbier as ritual exchanges between individuals or social groups with ancestral and fertility spirits having a close reciprocal link between the deceased and the secular world: ancestors require sustenance, respect and attention while humans seek advice, good fortune, health and offspring. Carved ancestor masks and effigies are Indonesian-Wood-Carvings created and used in ritual offerings for the departed for them to occupy and have a place to rest during village visits. Household ceremonies are performed in a room called “the womb” where a pillar supports beams rising to the roof struts which function symbolically as an axis mundi. Meaning “pillar of the world”, an axis mundi is a tree, mountain, pole or any tall object that literally or figuratively connects the earthly realm directly to heaven. It is the cosmic center of the world and a conduit to spirits and ghosts watching over the house. Many Indonesian-wood-carvings in the form of masks, effigies and fetishes are protective and magic objects connected to beliefs in animism and used throughout Indonesian island art in what Barbier brilliantly called “the ritual manipulation of fate.” (Barbier) Considered ethnic, tribal-art and folk-art, most masks are ancestor spirits based on a belief in animism and local spirits and are made to honor ancestors. Timorese masks were rarely seen in the West or even in Bali until the mid-1970s, but by the 1980s Javanese influences were noted in the treatment of the face, teeth and eyes. This mask was collected in Bali in the 1970s.

Click here for the blog Indonesian Dance Masks (Topeng): Spiritually Connecting the Community


Jean Paul Barbier, Indonesian Primitive Art: Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines from the Collection of the Barbier-Müller Museum, Geneva, Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art, 1984.



Additional information

Weight 4 lbs
Dimensions 18 × 12 × 6 in
Place of Origin



Vintage (1920-1980)



Materials and Technique


Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 12.5” W: 8.625” D: 2.75”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 31.75cm W: 21.91cm 6.98cm


Very good, patina and wear consistent with age and use

Reference Number


Shipping Box Size