Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Head (Ganabi)

early 20th century
Papua New Guinea, Papuan Gulf, Aramia River
Gogodala people
Wood, paint, shell, resin
H. 8 1/2 x W. 4 7/16 x D. 4 1/4 in. (21.6 x 11.2 x 10.8 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
In the past, the art of the Gogodala people centered largely on two major themes, the ornamentation of canoes and the creation of ritual paraphernalia for aida, a complex ceremonial cycle that culminated in male initiation, which honored the supernatural heroes who established Gogodala culture. Among the most engaging
creations of Gogodala artists were small wood heads (ganabi), which were typically attached to larger works such as masks, ceremonial rattles, and canoe prows. This head likely once adorned a ligale, a large oval dance mask worn during the aida rites. The heads on ligale represented primordial totemic ancestors or clan founders, shown with the distinctive conical basketry hats (diba) worn by Gogodala men. Presented at initiation, the diba was permanently affixed to the top of the head and protected the wearer from malevolent spirits, who were believed to enter the body through the hair. Largely abandoned in the 1930s due to the influence of Christian missionaries, many Gogodala art forms were revived in the 1970s and continue today.
Paul Wirz, Switzerland, by 1930–(d.) 1955, collected from native owner; by descent to Dadi Wirz, Switzerland, 1955–1960; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1960, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1960–1978

Wirz, Paul. Beiträge zur Ethnographie des Papua-Golfes, Britisch-Neuguinea. Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1934.

Newton, Douglas. Art Styles of the Papuan Gulf. New York: University Publishers, Inc., 1961.

Crawford, Anthony Leonard. Aida: Life and Ceremony of the Gogodala. Papua New Guinea and Bathurst, Australia: National Cultural Council of Papua New Guinea, 1981.

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, 82, 133-4.

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