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Grade Figure (Maghe ne Naun or Maghe ne Hivir)

Date:
early to mid-20th century
Geography:
Vanuatu, Ambrym Island
Culture:
Ambrym Island
Medium:
Fernwood, earth, paint
Dimensions:
H. 109 x W. 18 1/2 x D. 17 1/2 in. (276.9 x 47 x 44.5 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1972
Accession Number:
1978.412.735
  • Description

    Much of the art of central and northern Vanuatu in the
    southwest Pacific is associated with grade rituals, a
    hierarchical series of initiations, each of which confers
    successively greater religious and political authority during
    life and in the realm of the dead. In some areas, individuals
    who have reached the highest grades are considered the
    living dead, having already achieved the status of ancestors.
    Men’s and women’s grade rituals exist in most areas, but
    sculpture is created almost exclusively for men’s grade rites.
    This figure is carved from fern wood, the fibrous trunk of
    a tree fern composed of aerial roots surrounding a woody
    core. During the grade rites, grade figures are erected on
    the dancing ground and serve as temporary abode for the
    spirits associated with the grade. After the ceremony, the
    figure, its purpose served, is left on the dancing ground,
    its supernatural powers waning as it slowly disintegrates.
    Collected soon after it was used, this particular figure
    retains portions of its original paint.

  • Provenance

    [Henri Kamer, Paris and New York, until 1959]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1959, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1959–1972; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1972–1978

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
311177

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