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‘Scare Devil’

by on December 1, 2012

Whilst in the RAMM, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, I found an object which I believe performed. This ‘scare devil’ or also called ‘Henta-koi’ is from the Nicobar Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean. It is used by natives to deter malevolent spirits.

I decided to analyse why this object is performing. Firstly before knowing its use and purpose, it struck me as very eye-catching. It’s open face full of expression and outward stretched arms provoked a sense of performing instantaneously ; I immediately felt it had a use as an object which required it to perform in some way, I thought it was a piece of art or in some way associated with rituals.

It’s human-like face, I believe helps it to perform. As humans we can read and interpret faces and their emotions, so this object was able to perform for me as an audience. I could read its expression, which I felt was telling a story (stories are vital to performance) and have an emotional response. Having any kind of emotional or intellectual response is a key part of a performance so this must prove that the ‘scare devil’ is a performer.

Despite relating to the human-like facial expression, I found the non-human elements, such as the turtle shell made the ‘scare devil’ almost uncanny. When looking at the object for a longer period of time, it seems to become more sinister. And for me, it provoked a feeling of fear and panic.Image

It made me wonder why this object was required and that’s when I read that it was for scaring off evil spirits. When learning this, my perception of the object changed, it performed in a different way. I felt it was helping me understand the culture of the Nicobar Islands. It now performed as an educational insight into their rituals, ways of thinking and biggest fears.  I began to think about the people who made and used ‘scare devils’.

 I have considered the role of objects as performers and decided that the ‘scare devil’ is both aesthetically performing, as it is so eye-catching, but also performing within the museum for educational purposes.  In my opinion all objects perform due to their human element and what it shows about the humans who made it and used it, like I said this made me think about the people and beliefs of the Nicobar Islands in the same way as an Iphone could perform in representing Western culture.

But then, after all this thinking and considering, it suddenly hit me that this object was in a museum! And museums are full of objects and artefacts that are on show, or performing. So I would like to question whether everything in a museum is performing, as soon as it’s put behind the glass and lit, do we make them perform? After all the ‘Toilet’ sign did not perform for me in the same way as the objects on display but yet it still had an important use. 


Nora 🙂 


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