Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Figure (Bioma)

Date:
late 19th–early 20th century
Geography:
Papua New Guinea, Urama Island, Gulf province, Havasea village, Papuan Gulf
Culture:
Iwaino people
Medium:
Wood, paint, barkcloth, fiber, bamboo
Dimensions:
H. 43 x W. 17 x D. 7 in. (109.2 x 43.2 x 17.8 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
1979.206.1663
Not on view
The Papuan Gulf region encompasses the arts and cultures of the Gulf of Papua on the southeast coast of New Guinea. In the past, the primary focus of religious and artistic life in the region was on powerful spirits (imunu). Each imunu typically was associated with a specific location in the landscape, rivers, or sea, and was linked to the specific clan within whose territory it dwelt.
Papuan Gulf wood sculpture was primarily two-dimensional, consisting of board-like carvings, known as spirit boards, and figures with designs in low relief. Figures such as this one represented and served as a dwelling place for an individual imunu. Villages formerly had large communal men's houses divided into cubicles, each allotted to a particular clan or subclan. Every cubicle contained a clan shrine, which housed the spirit boards, figures, human and animal skulls, and other sacred objects associated with the clan's various imunu.
[Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1962]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1962, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1962–1978

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