About the gallery
Ancestors and Rituals examines the ancestral and ritualistic beliefs of traditional societies, including some of the most remote communities in Southeast Asia.
Many societies have a reverence for ancestors. They provide social position within the community. They are guardians of the living. And they ensure fertility to secure future generations. Honouring ancestors is viewed by many as critical for survival.
Rituals and traditions related to fertility — of crops and animals and people — are also present in communities around the world. Abundance is seen as a sign of well being, and rituals are devised to ward off anything that might disrupt harmony.
This gallery focuses mainly on traditional societies of Southeast Asia. Our region is diverse, in geography, ecologies, culture, and languages. Plains, mountains, and islands are home to countless communities — from rice growing farmers to seafaring traders.
The objects displayed here tell stories from the cultures of wet rice kingdoms, coastal trading centres, and the more remote tribal communities. Exchanges with other parts of the world occurred primarily with countries to the north and the west — China, India, the Arabic countries further west, and with Europe. Openness to foreign influences has long been an important motivating factor and a defining characteristic of Southeast Asia and its people.