Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Door Board (Jovo or Tale)

late 19th–early 20th century
New Caledonia, Grande Terre
Kanak people
Wood, paint
H. 75 1/2 x W. 36 x D. 12 in. (191.8 x 91.4 x 30.5 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
The Melanesian peoples of New Caledonia are known collectively as Kanaks. Kanak religious beliefs center on two types of supernatural beings; u (forest spirits linked to natural phenomena), and duéé (ancestral spirits associated with the human world). Unlike other Melanesian cultures, Kanak societies are ruled by hereditary chiefs who embody both political authority and the supernatural power of village ancestors.

In the past, each village had a large chief's house, which was an important focus of Kanak art. Its entrance, roof finial, and supporting posts were adorned with images of chiefs, ancestors, and protective spirits. Much of the carving centered on the lintel and doorjambs of the single doorway. The imposing doorjambs, known as jovo or tale, that stood on either side of the door were carved in male-female pairs. Each doorjamb simultaneously represents a recently deceased individual and the ancestral lineage of which he or she is a part. The imagery is highly conventionalized, depicting the individual as a corpse with the head exposed and the body wrapped in woven matting.
[John J. Klejman, New York, until 1966]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1966, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1966–1978

Sarasin, P. and F. Ethnologie der Neu Caledonier und Loyalty Insulaner. Vol. 2 vols.. Munich: C.W. Kreidel, 1929.

Guiart, Jean. L'Art Autochtone de Nouvelle-Caledonie. Vol. vol. 9, no. 9. Nouméa: Éditions des Études mélanésiennes, 1953.

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. 46.

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, 113, 192-3.

Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, p. 91.

Related Objects

Door Board (Jovo or Tale)

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, paint Accession: 1979.206.1759 On view in:Gallery 354

Engraved Bamboo Container (Kare U Ta)

Date: mid to late 19th century Medium: Bamboo Accession: 1978.412.1555 On view in:Gallery 354

Roof Finial

Date: 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood Accession: 1979.206.1451 On view in:Gallery 354

Mask (Dagak)

Date: mid to late 19th century Medium: Wood, paint Accession: 1983.17 On view in:Gallery 354

Doorboards (Jovo or Tale)

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, paint Accession: 1979.206.1758, .1759 On view in:Gallery 354