Papua New Guinea
Amitung door board for a ceremonial house
Early 20th century
Height: 92 ½ in. (235 cm)
Ex collection Loed & Mia Van Bussel, Amsterdam
Ex private collection, Paris
Among the Telefolmin and neighboring peoples of the Highlands, ancestral relics were kept in both family houses and men's houses. The right to attach carved and painted boards to a house coincided with the eligibility of the house to store ancestral relics. Elsewhere the 'heat' of such relics was believed to be a danger to the wellbeing of women and children so ancestral relics were kept only in men's ritual houses or in nearby rock shelters.
The circular hole at the base of the sculpture allowed individuals to enter and exit the ceremonial house. The small size of this opening permitted only one individual to enter at a time.
According to Telefolmin informants, the general composition of an amitung includes painted and sculpted representations, each with a specific meaning. Some Western ethnologists suggest that the general form would represent a stylised human figure.