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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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Anthropomorphic figure

circa 1000 BCE-circa 400 BCE


Unknown Artist


The volcanic island of Arop, known as Pono by its people, was named Long Island by William Dampier in 1700. A catastrophic eruption destroyed most life there around 400 years ago and created an ash cloud across the region. The 'taim tudak' (time of darkness) even ruined crops in the highlands of Papua New Guinea and led to widespread famine.

When people returned to Arop during the 19th century, stone figures such as these were unearthed in gardens, the story of their makers and purpose unknown. Anthropomorphic stone figurines found in the highlands of New Guinea were believed to be repositories of powers of fertility and growth. They were used primarily in ritual activities, until Christianity largely replaced indigenous ceremonial practices.

[entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 2]


Other Titles

Female figure

Stone figure


circa 1000 BCE-circa 400 BCE

Media category


Materials used

basalt stone


29.2 x 12.5 x 7.5 cm


Gift of the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 1969


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 5 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 145 (colour illus.).

Australian Museum, Records of the Australian Museum, Sydney, 31 Jul 1982, 443 (illus.), 444.

Annabel Davie (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, Sydney, 1988, 69 (illus.).

Mervyn Horton (Editor), Art and Australia, Sydney, Jul 1972, 79.

Tony Tuckson, Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 42. 12 Astrolabe Bay