Skull Hook (Agiba)

Kerewa people

Not on view

The most important sacred objects of the Kerewa people
were agiba, flat board-like figures created for the display
of human skulls. In the past, headhunting was an integral
element of religious practices throughout the Papuan Gulf,
honoring the spirits (imunu) whose powers sustained the
community. Kerewa men formerly lived in communal men’s
houses divided into cubicles in which the members of each
clan or subclan slept. Each cubicle housed a clan shrine
containing one or more agiba and other sacred objects.
The agiba symbolized the vitality and martial prowess of
the clan, presiding over the skulls obtained by its members.
The skulls were hung from the agiba by loops of rattan
placed over the hook-like projections at the base. At times,
a platform was constructed below the image to support the
weight of the assembled skulls. Only men who had captured
an enemy head were entitled to carve agiba. The agiba
reportedly represented a spirit that revealed itself to the
carver in a dream.

#1714. Skull Hook (Agiba)

Skull Hook (Agiba), Wood, paint, plant fiber, Kerewa people

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