Malagan Figure

Northern New Ireland

Carved wood
Late 19th century
Height: 42 ½ in (108 cm)

Ex collection Bernard Brugidou, Paris
Ex collection Laprugne, Paris

Published in: Ferocious Poetry, Ancient Arts of New Ireland, 2019

Price: on request

Melanesia – Eastern Papua New Guinea
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This sculpture represents a standing figure integrating animal representations (an owl, a flying fish). It is wearing a pointed headdress known as a « rain helmet ».
It served in the celebration of malagan. These ceremonies constituted the ultimate event in mourning important ancestors, in particular allowing them to move into immortality.
Acting not as a portrait of the departed, « but rather as a representation of the vital energy which engendered and animated him » (Arts Rituels d’Océanie, Nouvelle-Irlande, M. Gunn, 1997, p. 49), the statue illustrates ancestral motifs specific to the individual or the clan. Philippe Peltier in New Ireland: Art of the South Pacific (2006, p. 78) states that the malagan means picking up the ancestor's energy, channeling it and sharing it out among the members of the clan to tighten social bonds within the community.
This sculpture is distinguished by its evocative powers and its construction, both complex and delicate at once. It constitutes a superb example of the classic art of New Ireland.