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Male Figure

Date:
16th–19th century
Geography:
Papua New Guinea, Middle Sepik, Korewori River
Culture:
Inyai-Ewa people
Medium:
Wood
Dimensions:
H. 47 1/2 x W. 5 x D. 7 in. (120.7 x 12.7 x 17.8 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1965
Accession Number:
1978.412.856
  • Description

    The ancient wood sculptures of the Inyai-Ewa and
    neighboring groups of the upper Korewori River, a southern
    tributary of the Sepik, are the earliest Melanesian
    woodcarvings to survive in any substantial numbers. Kept in
    rock shelters, which protected them from the elements, the
    figures were primarily created between the sixteenth and
    nineteenth centuries. They occur in several forms and
    portray a variety of supernatural beings. Broad, flat female
    images are, at times, identified as representations of two primordial sisters who helped to shape the world or as the female ancestors or founders of
    particular clans. Two-legged male figures also likely portray
    primordial clan ancestors.
    The most abundant Inyai-Ewa carvings are the one-legged
    male figures, known as aripa. Kept in the men’s ceremonial
    house during the owner’s life and placed in a rock shelter as
    a memorial after his death, aripa represented spirits that
    resided within the images and served as hunting helpers,
    aiding in the capture of game such as wild pigs and
    cassowaries (large ostrich-like birds).

  • Provenance

    Father Heinemans, Catholic Mission, Wewak, Papua New Guinea, until 1965; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1965–1978

  • See also
    What
    Where
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
311326:1

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