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Pacific art

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Painting from ceremonial house ('deman' spirit with two birds and lizard)

mid 20th century
collected 1965


Ap Ma people

Papua New Guinea


Kambot village lies on the Keram River, a tributary of the lower Sepik. Kambot was first visited by Europeans during a German-led 1912–13 Sepik expedition and its spectacular ceremonial houses featured in the American film 'Jungle islands', shot during the 1928–29 expedition led by Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane for the Field Museum in Chicago. Set high on pilings above the flood plains, the houses' immense overhanging gables – said to resemble the open jaws of a crocodile – were adorned with paintings of spirits from the Kambot pantheon, including the paramount ancestor Mopul.

Made from the flattened lower leaf stalks of the sago palm, painted panels – 'panggal' in Pidgin – are sewn together and carefully prepared with a black undercoat. Artists then draw lines with white clay pigment and forms are filled with yellow and orange ochres.

[entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 18]


Other Titles

Bark painting, human figure with a bird's head and two other birds; lizard to one side

Figure, bird headed and surmounted by birds

Cultural origin

Ap Ma people


mid 20th century
collected 1965

Media category


Materials used

sago palm petioles, bamboo, natural pigments


162.0 x 67.0 cm


Purchased 1965


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Ap Ma people

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

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, 674 (illus.). plate no. 3

Tony Tuckson, Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 43. 24