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Pacific art

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Roof finial with female figure surmounted by a bird

mid 20th century
collected 1961


Iatmul people

Papua New Guinea


Aibom village is located near Chambri Lake in the Middle Sepik region of Papua New Guinea, and was settled by Iatmul-speaking peoples. It is one of the most important pottery manufacturing villages in the Sepik area, where fire-hearths, bowls, eating dishes, sago jars, and gable-ridge ornaments are traded for food with people who live in the hill country.

The pots themselves are usually made by the women during the wet season, however, the carving and other representational modelling was always done by the men of the village, perhaps as these images often represent clan totems or cultural heroes. In making the gable ornaments of men's houses, women form the pot that serves as a base, and on it men model the image of a human head or of a hermaphrodite surmounted by an eagle. In the past, men used to paint the vessels as well, however now women often both decorate and paint smaller pots that are made for sale.

The potter starts with a pinch pot and then adds thick, rolled coils to build up the form, the sides of which are then smoothed to complete the pot. The pots are then dried, and decoration is added. Before being fired, the pots are then set out in the sun to dry completely. The pots are fired by heaping dried sago palm fronds over the pottery, which takes about 30-60 minutes, and are ready when they have turned orange, producing a very low fire pottery.


Other Title

Roof ornament - female figure surmounted by a bird

Cultural origin

Iatmul people


mid 20th century
collected 1961

Media categories

Ceramic , Sculpture

Materials used

earthenware, modelled, red, white and black natural pigments


43.2 cm height :

0 - Whole; 43.2 cm


Gift of Stan Moriarty 1968


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Iatmul people

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Hal Missingham (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, Sydney, Apr 1969, front cover (illus.), 454.

Tony Tuckson, Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 45. 75

Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, Sydney, Apr 1972, (illus.).