Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Female Figure

16th–19th century
Papua New Guinea, Middle Sepik, Korewori River
Inyai-Ewa people
H. 66 1/4 x W. 16 x D. 6 in. (168.3 x 40.6 x 15.2 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1965
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
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).
#1752. Female Figure
: / 
For Audio Guide tours and information, visit
Father Heinemans, Catholic Mission, Wewak, Papua New Guinea, until 1965; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1965–1978

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. 178.

Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, 21, 55-6.

Related Objects

Bird Head

Date: Date unknown Medium: Stone, pigment Accession: 1978.412.1504 On view in:Gallery 354

Funerary Figure (Kulap)

Date: late 19th century Medium: Chalk, paint Accession: 1981.331.5 On view in:Gallery 354

Female Figure (Tetepeku)

Date: 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, paint Accession: 1978.412.819 On view in:Gallery 354

Ancestor Figure

Date: 19th century or earlier Medium: Wood, paint, fiber Accession: 1979.206.1561 On view in:Gallery 354

House-post Figure

Date: 19th century Medium: Wood, paint, fiber Accession: 1978.412.823 On view in:Gallery 354