H. 9 x W. 3 1/4 x D. 3 1/2 in. (22.9 x 8.3 x 8.9 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1960
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
Kulap figures represent individuals who had died recently. They were distinctive to southern New Ireland, and used throughout the region, they were created by specialists living near the limestone quarries in the Rossel Mountains. When a family member died, a male relative journeyed to the mountains and acquired a male or female kulap, depending on the sex of the deceased. After he returned home, the figure was erected, together with other kulap, within a shrine inside a ceremonial building surrounded by an enclosure. Kulap served as temporary abodes for the spirits of the dead, which might otherwise wander, causing harm to the living. Only men could view the images, but women often gathered outside the compound to mourn their lost relatives. After an appropriate period of time, the figures were destroyed.
[Watson O'Dell Pierce, Archaeological Artifacts & Antiques, New York, until 1960]; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1960–1978