X87.9a,b Knife (piso) and sheath

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Knife (piso) and sheath
Batak peoples
Sumatra, Indonesia
19th-early 20th century
Wood, metal, seeds
H: 26.7 cm, W: 3.0 cm, D: 3.3 cm (H: 10.5 in, W: 1.2 in, D: 1.3 in)
The Jerome L. Joss Collection. X87.9a,b


In Batak marriages, the groom’s family exchanges knives and other metal goods for handwoven textiles provided by the bride’s kin. This knife provides a beautiful (and sexually suggestive) metaphor for the marriage, as the male figure is carved on the handle of the knife and the female figure on the sheath. Only when the knife is inserted into the sheath do the two figures come together as a couple.

Source: Gallery text, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006