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Pacific art

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Title

Male and female ancestor figures

mid 20th century


Artist

Asmat people

Western New Guinea


About

According to Asmat legend, wooden statues were first carved by Fumeripitsj who, by beating a drum, gave them life, thereby creating the Asmat people. As the statues were animated, their elbows and knees separated and they began dancing. In ceremonies today, including the consecration of new men’s houses, or 'jeu', men dance with their elbows against their knees, re-enacting the Fumeripitsj story and the transformation from wood to flesh. The stance is also reminiscent of the praying mantis, a symbol of head-hunting among the Asmat.

Wooden figure sculptures such as this would often be named after ancestors. They are created by master woodcarvers, or 'wowipitsj', who are socially and politically influential.

[entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 5]


Details


Place where the work was made

Pomatsj River West Papua Indonesia


Cultural origin

Asmat people


Date

mid 20th century


Media category

Sculpture


Materials used

wood


Dimensions

131.0 x 41.0 x 39.0 cm


Credit

Purchased 1976


Location

Not on display


Accession number

167.1976


Artist information

Asmat people

Works in the collection

1


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Referenced in 5 publications

Bibliography


Art Gallery of New South Wales (Editor), Catalogue of acquisitions 1976, Sydney, 1976, 97 (illus.). cat.no. 298

Ian North (Editor), Special exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia: Seventh Adelaide Festival of Arts 1972, Adelaide, 1972. 'Arts of Oceania'; cat.no. 203

NSW Department of Education and Training, Education gazette, Sydney, Dec 1966, front and back cover (illus.).

Helen Sweeney., Sunday telegraph, 'The week in art', Sydney, 01 May 1966, (illus.). Caption reads: 'Two figures from South West New Guinea at an exhibition of Melanesian art at the Art Gallery of NSW', in 'What's on in art' section.

Tony Tuckson, Melanesian art, Sydney, 1966. cat.no. 195