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Unknown Maker
Male Figure (Kundul)
19th-20th century

Sculpted by Wurkun carvers and blacksmiths, kundul columnar figures represent male and female household spirits that heal and protect. Community members experiencing distress, such as illness or a difficult pregnancy, would consult with a priest who might recommend commissioning a pair of kundul as part of their treatment. A kundul¿s medicinal function would be activated through sacrifices, offerings, and careful attention. During harvest celebrations, for example, the kundul would be brought outside, carefully washed with water and a red clay solution, oiled and ¿fed¿ the first harvests. This figure¿s reddish-brown coloring and worn patina reflect these practices.Although often differentiated by personal names, kundul share similar formal features. Most were originally mounted on iron spikes that secured the sculpture to the ground and protected the wood from termites. Columnar in shape, with elongated cylindrical torsos and necks, arms that form a raised oval around the torso, and a distinctive raised umbilicus, they are highly stylized versions of male and female forms. Gender can be identified generally only by the presence of a crest on the kundul¿s head, such as seen on this work. Such crests represent male coiffures or helmets and headdresses worn during important ceremonies, dances and war.Research and photographic documentation show that kundul were widely used prior to the 1970s. As younger Wurkun abandoned traditional religious practices and converted to Christianity and Islam, their use declined.

 
Unknown Maker
Wurkun peoples
Male Figure (Kundul)
19th-20th century
wood, pigment
45.0 x 8.0 x 7.8 cm
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-085

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