Ancestor Figure (Silum or Telum)
Not on view
Ancestors were central to the art and religion of the peoples of Astrolabe Bay in northeast New Guinea. Ancestor figures appear to have been associated primarily with men’s ceremonial houses. This work is attributed to Bogadjim village, where ancestor images were honored periodically with ceremonial feasts. During the feasts, occasions of both reverence and revelry, the figures served as temporary abodes for ancestral spirits and were placed among the participants to allow the ancestors to join in the festivities. The figures probably were also associated with male initiation. This work likely portrays a powerful ancestor adorned with the marks of his status and wealth. He wears the spherical headdress reserved for prominent men, and the forms on his chest represent spiral pig’s tusks, which were prized throughout the region.