Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Door Board (Jovo or Tale)

Date:
late 19th–early 20th century
Geography:
New Caledonia, Grande Terre
Culture:
Kanak people
Medium:
Wood, paint
Dimensions:
H. 75 1/2 x W. 36 x D. 12 in. (191.8 x 91.4 x 30.5 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Architectural
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
1979.206.1758
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
The Melanesian peoples of New Caledonia are known collectively as Kanaks. Kanak religious beliefs center on two types of supernatural beings; u (forest spirits linked to natural phenomena), and duéé (ancestral spirits associated with the human world). Unlike other Melanesian cultures, Kanak societies are ruled by hereditary chiefs who embody both political authority and the supernatural power of village ancestors.

In the past, each village had a large chief's house, which was an important focus of Kanak art. Its entrance, roof finial, and supporting posts were adorned with images of chiefs, ancestors, and protective spirits. Much of the carving centered on the lintel and doorjambs of the single doorway. The imposing doorjambs, known as jovo or tale, that stood on either side of the door were carved in male-female pairs. Each doorjamb simultaneously represents a recently deceased individual and the ancestral lineage of which he or she is a part. The imagery is highly conventionalized, depicting the individual as a corpse with the head exposed and the body wrapped in woven matting.
[John J. Klejman, New York, until 1966]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1966, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1966–1978

Guiart, Jean. L'Art Autochtone de Nouvelle-Caledonie. Vol. vol. 9, no. 9. Nouméa: Éditions des Études mélanésiennes, 1953.

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. 46.

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, 113, 192-3.

Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, p. 91.



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