Ancestor figure

East Sepik Province
Papua New Guinea

North Coast, Aitape region

Carved wood
Early 20th century
Height: 20 ½ in. (52 cm)

Acquired in the 1930s
Ex Sotheby’s New York, 2001
Ex collection Pierre Mondoloni, France

Published: Sepik: Hooks, Figures & Masks, 2018

Price: on request

Melanesia – Papua New Guinea
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These anthropomorphic figures go by the name of kandimboa(n)g among the peoples living in the region of the mouths of the Sepik and Ramu rivers. According to Joseph Schmidt (“Die Ethnographie der Nor-Papua“, 1933), they incarnate the mythical founding heroes of the clan. Otto Reche states that they also served as memorial figures for ancestors who had marked the history of the clan (“Der Kaiserin-Augusta-Fluss/ Sepik River“, 1913).
They were solicited during initiation rituals, and finally served as protective figures for the community.
Each statue bore the name of an ancestor, the name itself attached to a specific myth and song.
When not being used in ceremonies, the statues were kept in the Men’s House where they received offerings of food.
This male sculpture is remarkable for its intensity, radiating all the strength of the warrior. The delicacy and slenderness of the legs contrasts with the volumes of the upper body, exalting the power of the ancestor.