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Figure (Gra or Garra)

Date:
late 19th–early 20th century
Geography:
Papua New Guinea, Hunstein Mountains, Namu village, Korewori River region
Culture:
Bahinemo people
Medium:
Wood, paint
Dimensions:
H. 31 1/2 x W. 14 x D. 2 1/2 in. (80 x 35.6 x 6.4 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. John J. Klejman Gift and Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1968
Accession Number:
1978.412.1526
  • Description

    In former times, the focus of artistic and religious life
    among the Bahinemo people of the Hunstein mountains
    south of the middle Sepik River was the men’s ceremonial
    house, in which initiation and other rites took place and
    sacred objects, collectively called gra or garra, were kept.
    Bahinemo artists created two distinct forms of hook figures:
    flat, mask-like panels with stylized human faces bracketed
    by hook-shaped forms and tall slender images, intended to
    be seen in profile, consisting of a series of concentric hooks
    surrounding a central projection. Mask-like forms were
    associated, broadly, with forest spirits, while the slender
    profile images were connected with water spirits, their
    curving hooks identified, in some cases, as catfish whiskers.
    Like the hook figures (yipwon) of the Yimam people, Bahinemo hook images formerly served as hunting helpers, their supernatural powers assisting in the
    capture of game. They also played a role in male initiation ceremonies, in which they were carried by initiated men during dances.

  • Provenance

    Private native owner, Papua New Guinea, until 1967; [Wayne Heathcote, Australia, Papua New Guinea, 1967–1968]; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1968–1978

  • See also
    What
    Where
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
311962

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