Ancestor Figure (Konumb or Atei)

19th century
Papua New Guinea, Singarin village, Lower Sepik River
Kopar people
Wood, paint
H. 76 3/4 x W. 6 1/4 x D. 4 1/4 in. (194.9 x 15.9 x 10.8 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1972
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
The Angoram and Kopar peoples who live along the lower reaches of the Sepik River in northeast New Guinea formerly created distinctive ancestor images (atei) with flat openwork bodies and fully modeled heads. Their bodies are frequently adorned, as here, with images of animals representing totemic species associated with the village clans and, occasionally, with smaller human figures whose significance is uncertain. Erected in lines standing shoulder-to-shoulder within the men’s ceremonial house, in the past, the powerful ancestor figures were reportedly consulted before hunting expeditions or raids on enemy villages.
Museum für Völkerkunde, Hamburg; [Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1955]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1955, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1959–1972; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1972–1978

Museum of Primitive Art. Masterpieces in the Museum of Primtive Art: Africa, Oceania, North America, Mexico, Central to South America, Peru. Handbook series. New York, NY: Museum of Primitive Art, 1965, no. 43.

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. 146.