Sepik Hook

oceania | Papua New Guinea

Sepik Hook

Papua New Guinea

Large anthropomorphic hook
Chambri Lake or Iatmul, Middle Sepik

Early 20th century
Carved wood, pigments and shell
Height: 83 cm – 32 ½ in.

Provenance
Ex collection Julius Carlebach, New York
Ex collection Pierre Mondoloni, France

Published: Fine Arts Paris & La Biennale 2022
Large Middle Sepik Hook 83 cm / Galerie Flak Price on request
As stated by the National Gallery of Australia (Myth + Magic: Art of the Sepik River, Crispin Howarth, 2015), samban is the latmul name given to wonderfully sculptural suspension hooks from the Middle Sepik region. They are functional, domestic objects, anchor-like in form. They were suspended from the rafters of a house by rope. They are designed to keep netted fiber bags of food, sago cakes and smoked fish, assorted valuables and occasionally even sleeping babies out of harm's way.
Each hook is beautifully carved in the form of a specific named ancestor or spirit being. Often, the lower section is carved to depict the head of a catfish with its barbels becoming the hooks themselves. The iconography of the catfish is associated with powerful waken spirits and may refer to part of an important latmul myth concerning sex.
As Christian Coiffier & Douglas Newton noted in Sculpture from the Sepik River region, « the swinging of the hook from the roof beam expresses the continuity of life, like a metronome marking time » (in Sculptures: Afrique, Asie, Océanie, Ameriques, Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 2001, p. 294).
Samban hooks take many diverse forms and truly attest to the artistic genius of Sepik carvers.

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