Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Figure (Yipwon)

Date:
19th century or earlier
Geography:
Papua New Guinea, East Sepik Province, Korewori River
Culture:
Yimam people
Medium:
Wood
Dimensions:
H. 86 in. (218.4 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1965
Accession Number:
1978.412.854
Not on view
Throughout the ranges of hills south of the middle Sepik River in northeast Papua New Guinea, a number of peoples worked in what is known as the opposed-hooks style, in which curved and pointed hooks are arranged on a vertical axis around a central design element. Among the most elegant are the remarkable stylized anthropomorphic hook figures of the Alamblak people that are known as yipwon. Local oral tradition describes the origin of these distinctive images. When the spirit of the Sun, who formerly inhabited the earth, was carving the first slit gong (a large musical instrument), the pieces of wood chipped from the carving came to life as spirits who lived with the Sun in the men's ceremonial house. One day these spirits killed one of the Sun's male relatives and drank his blood, after which they stretched themselves out against the wall of the house and turned back into wood. Angered by their act, the Sun ascended into the sky while the yipwon remained on earth as patron spirits of warfare and hunting. Large yipwon images such as this one were owned collectively by clans, while smaller portable examples were individually owned and served as amulets, carried in net bags by their owners to bring success in hunting and battle.
Father Heinemans, Catholic Mission, Wewak, Papua New Guinea, until 1965; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1965–1978

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 179.

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, 24, 58-9.



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