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Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

In line with decisions made by the National Cabinet as communicated by the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is currently closed but will reopen to the public on 1 June. The Gallery will be observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of all visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the State. More information




Pacific art

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Ceremonial axe

early 20th century
collected 1940


Unknown Artist


The Mt Hagen battleaxes are the finest yet seen in New Guinea ... Most of them are made in the villages of Gumbigai and Mangarvigar in the Manginbor area, where the stone for the blades is quarried. Their heads are a blue or grey stone of fine texture, beautifully ground and polished. The blade is well housed in a wooden cavity, set in the same plane as the handle and counterbalanced by a piece of wood … set immediately behind and beautifully carved and decorated with fibre chains and fur … It is carried in the bark belt with the handle between the belt and the body and the head and counterpoise resting on the upper edge of the belt. When ready for action the axe is carried above the shoulder in an alert position with the hand near the blade.

Ernest Chinnery, Government Anthropologist, Mandated Territory of New Guinea, 1934


Other Title

Presentation axe

Cultural origin

Wahgi people


early 20th century
collected 1940

Materials used

grey-green stone, wood handle, carved wood blade, woven split-vine binding


63 x 50 x 5.5 cm overall; blade 25.5 x 11.2 x 1.9 cm :

0 - Whole, 48.3 cm (19"), handle length

0 - Whole, 61 cm (24"), across top of axe

0 - Whole, 25.5 cm (10 1/16"), slate blade


Gift of Stan Moriarty 1978


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 2 publications


Tony Tuckson, Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 54. H150

Natalie Wilson (Editor), Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, Sydney, 2014, 88 (colour illus.), 160. 31