We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Samban (suspension hook)

early 20th century
collected 1956


Iatmul people

Papua New Guinea

Alternate image of Samban (suspension hook) by Iatmul people
Alternate image of Samban (suspension hook) by Iatmul people
  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Chambri Lake Middle Sepik River East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
    Cultural origin
    Iatmul people
    early 20th century
    collected 1956
    Media category
    Materials used
    wood, white pigment
    59.0 x 28.7 x 9.4 cm
    Purchased 1976
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Iatmul people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Iatmul people

    Works in the collection


  • About

    'Samban' (suspension hooks) are carved by men throughout the Sepik region and are used to suspend nets or trays filled with food, protecting contents from water and vermin. Objects such as weapons, musical instruments and ancestral human skulls or victims of headhunting were also hung on samban in the past.

    Found in all dwelling houses, the most heavily decorated 'samban' held an important place in the 'geko', or men's ceremonial house. These sacred objects were thought to embody clanspecific, ancestral 'waken' spirits, which could be animated when offerings were made. Double-headed 'samban' such as this, with its elongated heads with bird-like beaks, have been likened to 'mai' masks, which appear as brother-sister pairs during Iatmul ritual performances.

    [entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 27]

  • Places

    Where the work was made

    Chambri Lake

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

    • Melanesian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 20 Apr 1966–22 May 1966

    • Melanesian art: redux, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 Nov 2018–17 Feb 2019

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 1 publication

    • Tony Tuckson, Melanesian art, Sydney, 1966, 12. cat.no. 132; 'Hook. Double headed, beak type. Wood carved and engraved, filled with white on black, 23h, Sepik River. Coll: S.G. Moriarty. M348'

Other works by Iatmul people

See all 44 works