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Female figure (arms at sides)


Unknown Artist


This figure was bought from a source in Sydney. It is attributed to either a region of the lower Yuat River, or to the west. The difference between this figure and those of the lower river and coastal area is most marked, especially in the features of the head. The emphasis on the eyes, which are round and carved in relief, is not so strong, the nose is splayed out at the nostrils and the lips of the mouth are indicated. Of note are the body engravings the figure, which together with the quality of the general carving would indicate that it was made before the commercial era and so would be of some age. The figure also has woven arm and legbands and has carved holes at the back so it could be suspended.

A figure in the Papua New Guinea Public Museum and Art Gallery, Port Moresby is described by Karl Laumann ('Geisterfiguren am mittleren Yuat River in Neuguinea', in Anthropos, vol 59, 1959, pg. 27-57] with the related myth, 'Mundabala and his Family'. A man from the Maramba, south of Kanduonum, who managed to return to the village through various circumstances after being captured by bush spirits, had a large figure made in the form of these spirits. At the same time a small figure was carved, the child of the spirit (the Port Moresby figure). Later a feud developed over the killing of a woman, Pandi, a Maramban, leading to one section moving from Maramba to Andoar on the banks of the lower Yuat. A third effigy was made to represent the woman, without a head, as when it was made her own skull was placed on top of it. The figure Mundabala, considered a war and hunting 'god', protected the Maramba people against enemies and saw there was sufficient supply of wildlife for hunting. The two secondary figures, wife and child, had no special significance except that they were associated with the main spirit figure. Laumann's informant said the child (Andi) was holding a bird to eat. The story confirms the type of movement that took place on the Sepik.

revised entry from AJ Tuckson, 'Some Sepik River art from the collection', AGNSW Quarterly, vol 13, no 3, 1972, pg. 671.


Place where the work was made

Yuat River East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea

Media category


Materials used

carved wood, woven rattan


37.0 cm height :

0 - Whole; 37 cm


Purchased 1971


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 2 publications


Tony Tuckson, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'Some Sepik River art from the collection', pg. 666-679, Sydney, Apr 1972, 667, 670-671, 675 (illus.). plate no. 7; 'Female figure', wood, rattan

Tony Tuckson, Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 44. 29