Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Figure (Gra or Garra)

early to mid-20th century
Papua New Guinea, Hunstein Mountains, Nigiru village (?), Korewori River
Bahinemo people
Wood, paint
H. 46 1/4 in. (117.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Gertrud A. Mellon, 1976
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
In former times, the focus of artistic and religious life among the Bahinemo people of the Hunstein mountains south of the middle Sepik River was the men’s ceremonial house, in which initiation and other rites took place and sacred objects, collectively called gra or garra, were kept. Bahinemo artists created two distinct forms of hook figures: flat, mask-like panels with stylized human faces bracketed by hook-shaped forms and tall slender images, intended to be seen in profile, consisting of a series of concentric hooks surrounding a central projection. Mask-like forms were associated, broadly, with forest spirits, while the slender profile images were connected with water spirits, their curving hooks identified, in some cases, as catfish whiskers. Like the hook figures (yipwon) of the Yimam people, Bahinemo hook images formerly served as hunting helpers, their supernatural powers assisting in the capture of game. They also played a role in male initiation ceremonies, in which they were carried by initiated men during dances.
[Alan Brandt, New York ]; Gertrud A. Mellon, New York, until 1976

Newton, Douglas. Crocodile and Cassowary; Religious Art of the Upper Sepik River, New Guinea. New York: Museum of Primitive Art, 1971.

Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, 20, 53-4.

Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014.

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