Kulap stone figure

Barok, New Ireland

Carved stone
19th century
Height: 39.5 cm (15 ½ in.)

Ex collection Antonio Casanovas, Arte y Ritual, Madrid
Ex private collection, Paris

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

Price : on request

Melanesia – Eastern Papua New Guinea
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Here is a description by Wilfried Powell in 1883 in his book Wanderings in a Wild Country / Three Years Amongst the Cannibals of New Britain (page 249): “In New Ireland, on the death of any member of a well-to-do family, one of the men of the same family goes to the bush tribe that live in the Rossel Mountains, and obtains a carved chalk figure, of either a man or a woman according to the sex of the deceased, with which he returns to his village and with great secrecy gives it to a chief whose particular business it is to receive it. It is then placed in a small “mortuary chapel” (I hardly know what else to call it) that is built inside another house, and is decorated with all manner of variated plants, in company with other figures of the same description, where it remains (for how long I do not know). This curious practice arises out of a superstition with respect to the spirit of the departed, in which they believe that the ghost must have some habitation on earth, or it will haunt the survivors of its late family, to work them some mischief; they therefore place this figure for the spirit to go to, as its late tenement is decomposed in the earth or sea, according to the place of burial. Women are never allowed to go near or look upon these figures, it being death for them to do so. The chalk of which these figures are composed, and which is found at the top of the Rossel Mountain, is, I believe, one of the only, if not the sole deposit of chalk formed in the South Pacific.”