Carved Sexually explicit figures at Giarai (Jarai) Tomb, Vietnamese Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi

Built in 1998 by Rchom Ju, Rchom Ek, Rchom Uek, Ksor Ul, and Ksor Ka-ro (Giarai Arap group), from Mrong Ngo village, Ia Ka commune, Chu Pa district, Gia Lai province. The most prominent decorations on the Giarai tomb are large wooden sculptures carved from tree trunks using adzes, cutlasses and knives. Carvings of sexually-explicit men and women and pregnant women symbolise fertility and birth. Other carvings of seated children (often placed at the four corners), animals, and everyday people are the ‘servants’ of the dead in the afterlife. Broken or inverted serving dishes, bottles, cups and trays, and wooden models of tools are placed inside the tomb to provide the deceased with the necessities they will need in the other world. The tomb’s wooden roof is covered with a tightly plaited bamboo matting. Men join together to embellish this with delicate, curvilinear designs painted with natural red pigments. Crowning the roof is an intricately carved openwork panel depicting the rituals that accompany the tomb and its abandonment ceremony. Once the ceremony is concluded, the tomb will be abandoned to fall to pieces.

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Photography © Quintin Lake, 2010

Text © 2005 by Vietnam Museum of Ethnology