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Pacific art

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Decorated male figure

mid 20th century
collected 1964


Usarufa people

Papua New Guinea


Constructed from an astounding array of natural materials, this figure is dressed in the everyday attire of a village man, including a woven belt with wooden 'bat-winged' codpiece, cowrie-shell waistband, woven armbands, nose peg and feathered headbands.

Stan Moriarty described these figures as 'decoy figures', noting their placement inside men's houses and in gardens, with the aim to confound enemy assailants.


Other Titles

Male figure (witch doctor)

Male figure to guard men's house

Cultural origin

Usarufa people


mid 20th century
collected 1964

Media category


Materials used

wood, split rattan, sedge grass, seeds, marsupial tails and fur, pig tusks, cowrie shells (Cypraeidae), yellow orchid stem fibre (Dendrobium), plant fibre string, feathers, natural pigments


157.5 cm height (figure) :

a - figure, 157.5 cm, height

b - grass lap lap, 44 cm, height

c - 2 possum fur headdress attachments, 43 cm, length of longest attachment

d - lap lap, 40 cm, overall

e - mother of pearl necklace, 47 cm, length

f - penis girdle, 40 cm, height

g - main headdress, 25 cm, 25.0 overall; wood piece 8.0 height

h - waist belt, 18 cm, width

i - waist belt, 20 cm, width


Purchased 1977


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Usarufa people

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

  • 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

Referenced in 2 publications


Tony Tuckson, Melanesian art, Sydney, 1966. 241

Tony Tuckson, Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973. H60