World Cultures, South Asia

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'Scare Devil'

World Cultures

Object connections:

Collection World Cultures, South Asia
ExhibitionsTraders: The East India Company and Asia
User collections Re┬ĚThink Migration by marre986
Collectables (All) by blueheatwave
Collectables (Asia) by blueheatwave
Gallery locationTraders Gallery (Floor plans)

Object details:

Object ID AAA2828
Description A 'Scare Devil', a carved wooden figure, the face painted red, with an open mouth, protruding tongue and pointed hat. It has earrings made of tassels of cloth, long arms, a pot belly and bent legs. This type of figure represents a turtle-like mythological creature with a shell on its back. Painted (on metal figleaf): 'IDOL FROM FISHERY GROUNDS, NICOBAR ISLANDS'. From Chatham Dockyard Museum. The hentakoi, or 'scare devil', was used to guard Nicobari homes against illness, bad luck and other evil spirits. When misfortune befell a household, the hentakoi was deemed to have lost its potency and would be discarded, being replaced with a new figure. These discarded 'idols' were collected as souvenirs by visiting sailors. Painted and incised boards also served a similar function; as time passed and western visitors become more common, Europeans and their ships began to feature alongside traditional designs. The collections of the British Museum contain examples of figures and boards. The Victorian 'modesty' plaque associated with this figure is rare.
Date made Late 19th century

Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Chatham Dockyard Collection
Materials teak; organic: cloth
Measurements Overall: 670 x 230 x 620 mm
  • 'Scare Devil' (AAA2828)
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