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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Male Figure

19th century or earlier
Papua New Guinea, Lower Sepik, Keram River region
Keram River region
Wood, feathers, cowrie shells, fiber
H. 70 in. (177.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Evelyn A. J. Hall, 1981
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
Board-like images are, or were, made in a number of areas of the Lower Sepik region. The body of this figure from the Keram River resembles the blade of a canoe paddle from whose surface a face, arms, and a phallus emerge to form a human image. This figure was almost certainly a sacred image portraying a powerful spirit or ancestor and was likely kept within the men’s ceremonial house of the village. The jaw line is embellished with cowrie shells, precious objects that served as ornaments and ceremonial currency. The figure appears to wear a headdress, adorned with cowrie shells and trimmed with the feathers of the cassowary, a large ostrich-like bird. The figure grasps a long cylindrical object, possibly representing a snake.
Evelyn A. J. Hall, New York, until 1981

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, 54, 96.

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