A Superb Keram River Ancestor Figure East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea

This fine old Ancestor Figure from the Keram River area which is a tributary of the Sepik River in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. Dating from the late 19th – early 20th Century and using a unique iconography of a father carrying his son on his back.  I looked at this sculpture for a long time trying to see if I was seeing it correctly, possible a double ancestor figure but I keep coming back to the idea that it is a father carrying his son on his back.  The Keram River area has a unique style of art out of the many Sepik river cultures close by.

Carved from a single piece of hardwood and it never had a flat base to stand up independently as many early Sepik Figures are. The front view is a standing male ancestor with elongated almost vertical eyes, the nose is pierced and has a fibre string through the septum, the elongated head suggests he might be wearing a hair ornament.  The reverse side of this figure looks like the normal back view of the ancestor figure except for the child that appears to be riding piggyback style but facing outwards as when people carry their kids in a backpack type carrier.

The German Anthropologist Richard Thurnwald (1869–1954) joined the expedition in January of 1913 and was assigned the Töpferfluss, known today as the Keram River.  He reported on the many types of artworks made in this area especially the superb feather mosaics that were arranged into large-scale assemblages inside the men’s ceremonial houses for the initiation ceremonies of young men.  See the fine article and photos in the Tribal Art Magazine by By Valentin Boissonnas in Winter 2018.

There are many types sculptures that are termed ” Maternity Figures”  being a mother & child, this is a common artistic theme in all cultures including the Sepik River cultures but as far as I have seen this is a unique sculpture of a father and son.  The many times I visited villages all of New Guinea & West Papua I often saw fathers carrying their children & holding them in a tender loving manner.  So why not an ancestor sculpture of that subject matter.

Provenance:  The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic Art.  ( I am looking the other provenance for this figure, still to come )

A Superb Aboriginal WundaShield Western Australia 19th Century

This superb large Aboriginal Wunda Shield from Western Australia and dating from the late 19th Century.

This Wunda shield is beautifully carved in an oval form from thin hardwood, slightly convex on the front and slightly concave with a lug handle on the back. Finely incised bold zig-zag patterns consisting of a series of longitudinal grooves accented with red and white ochre, the back of this shield is also finely incised with vertical & horizontal striations. It is hard to pick which side of the shield is most beautiful as both sides are superb.

Wunda Shields are one of the finest of all Aboriginal Shields made in by the indigenous people of Australia. Wunda shields were once used across a large portion of the vast state of Western Australia.  Most of the Wunda Shields have the zig-zag designs on the front and the reverse can either have either other types of abstract designs or vertical striations over the entire back surface.

Although widely distributed in the region, the shields appear to have been produced mainly by peoples living in the area between the Gascoyne and Murchison rivers, which drain into Australia’s western coast and traded to other groups along with a vast network of inland exchange routes.

Like many forms of Aboriginal shields, Wunda were used in fighting for protection against projectile weapons, such as spears and boomerangs. They were also carried by performers in ritual contexts, especially when ceremonies re-enacting specific episodes from the Dreaming (primordial creation period), in which ancestral beings were said to have been armed with shields.

Many of these old Wunda Shields were collected in the late 19th Century, they were old at the time it’s likely that these are from the early 19th Century due to their age when collected.

References:

The Symbolism of the North-Western Australian Zigzag Design by Author(s): C. G. von Brandenstein

Source: Oceania, Vol. 42, No. 3 (Mar., 1972), pp. 223-238  Published by: Wiley on behalf of Oceania Publications, University of Sydney

Provenance:
Ex Peter Hallinan Collection (1938-2015) Queensland Australia Peter was one of the great collectors of the 20th Century in Australia. Artworks from his collection are now in major museum collections around the world.

The Todd Barlin Collection of Aboriginal Art

A Finely Painted Aboriginal Hollow Log Central Arnhem Land Northern Territory

This finely painted Hollow Log Coffin was made for the Art Market and never intended to be used.  Dating from the late 1960’s to early 1970’s.    The main design elements are several types of Lizards relating to the Mardayin ceremony and painted among the background of finely painting crosshatch called Rarrk which is widely used in Arnhem land painting. The condition of the painting on this artwork is so fine &  in nearly perfect condition.

According to the National Gallery of Australia ”

Various language groups in Arnhem Land call this style of painting rarrk. These rarrk designs are the body paintings worn by the (male) initiates in the Mardayin ceremony. The act of painting the initiate with the designs is like mapping their body to their ancestral lands. The designs comprise a geometric framework that is painted on the thighs and chest of the initiates and then filled in with bands of lines that alternate in colour. These lines are very finely painted with a special brush that only has a few very long hairs. On close inspection, the designs appear net-like in form and create an optical play between the different surfaces of the design. This can lead to moiré effects created by the intersection of different layers of hatched lines, and the designs have a certain translucence as one sees through the surface webs of paint to those beneath.

Artists use dots of contrasting colours to enliven the borders that comprise the outline grid for these designs. The effect created by layering the myriad of parallel lines, and combining them with dotted dividing lines, gives the painting dynamism and brilliance. This is an important aesthetic effect that Kuninjku seeks in their ceremonial designs, and the application of them in the context of the ceremony is said to transfer ancestral power to the initiate and to release power into the world.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Aboriginal Art

A Collection of 27 Clay & Metal Buddhist Votives Burma Myanmar,18th -19th Century

In Burma Myanmar clay & metal votives were widely made & used by devote Buddhists who believe that making these images build spiritual merit. Clay votive tablets of the Buddha and Buddhist images represent a significant element of the archaeological record of early Buddhist sites in South East Asia including Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.

Bronze moulds were used to make clay images that were stamped out & sun dried & then individually painted with gold or silver. They were made in many different types some of the Buddha’s and scenes of the historical Buddha’s life , Bodhisattva’s and other deities.

This collection made over 35 years shows the many different styles of these clay & metal votive.

Votives were also used to fill the inside a Pagoda or Shrine, others were kept as memories of visits to important Buddhist Shrines or temples. In Thailand & Burma ancient clay votive are highly regarded as protection & worn in metal cased necklaces.

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A Rare Antique Basketry Backpack from the Brao Ethnic Group Northest Cambodia

This superb and rare antique basket comes from the North-East of Cambodia (Ratanakiri district), made by the Brao ethnic group The Brao are part of the ethnolinguistic group of Southern Bahnarics (south of the Indochinese Central highlands).  The skill of the artist who made this basket would have spent a lifetime perfecting their techniques. Basketry in Cambodia is carried out mainly by women, many of whom cultivate and harvest the reeds by themselves.

Basketry is an often unappreciated art form. A lifetime of practice and skill is needed to get not only the perfect tapering shape but also the mathematics in adding the designs elements.  This fine basket is also strong and made for daily use.

When I am looking at this basket I see a very clever & talented person who can take fibre from plants and then create into an object of great beauty & strength.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Asian Arts & Oceanic Arts

A Woven Natural Fibre Rain Cape For a Child Taiwan

This little Rain Cape made for a child before people had plastic raincoats, the woman I bought it from was in her 60’s and said that she remembered people wear these when she was a child.   The interesting part plant fibre Rain Cape is that it looks like a modern sculpture & could easily be presented & interpreted as fibre sculpture. To me, it looks a flying ghost.  It is in very good condition. I am not sure exactly what type of plant was used, it looks like a palm fibre.

To see how much the world has changed , once almost everything was made from natural materials found in one’s environment but with modern times people started using cheap plastic everything and the knowledge to make something like a fibre rain cape is probably gone from many places that once made them.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic & Asian Arts

 

Small Amulet Figure West Nepal late 19th – Early 20th Century

This sweet little carved wood figure of a male ancestor was used as a personal amulet by the people Western Nepal.  When you pick this little figure up in your hands you instantly see that this has been cared for and handled for a very long time.  The figure shows its hands held to its stomach or perhaps is holding his penis.  The figure has a  deep reddish-black patina from long use.

Ancestor worship and person home shrines are common in the remote areas of Western Nepal, it is only in recent years that many artworks from this part of Nepal have been shown around the world. The heavily eroded ancestor figures that guard bridges are the better know artworks from this area.

This small sculpture has given me a lot of enjoyment just having it around to pick up and admire. I never get tired of looking at it.  Now is the time to let this fine little figure go to a new home where hopefully it will be greatly enjoyed for many years.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic and Asian Art

 

A Superb Large Humboldt Bay Bark Cloth Tapa Painting from West Papua

This superb large Tapa Bark Cloth Painting from the Humboldt Bay area on the Northwest Coast of West Papua.

The beautiful painting is of a powerful sea spirit which features in the mythology of the Humbold Bay area.

Made from a single long piece of tree bark taken from the paper mulberry tree that is then pounded flat through a traditional process that is used throughout the island of New Guinea, the rest of Melanesia & Polynesia.

The Tapa Cloths from Lake Sentani and Humboldt Bay in N.W. Irian Jaya is locally known as Maro Smo.

Early accounts of the local people making and wearing decorated Tapa Cloth are sketchy, but it seems that married women wore Tapa Skirts which were decorated with designs.  An early photograph by the ethnographer Paul Wirtz in 1926 shows a large painted Tapa Cloth displayed next to the grave of a young woman.

The Tapa designs that the outside world usually associates with Lake Sentani and Humboldt Bay, were collected in the 1920s and 1930s.

There is evidence to suggest that the manufacture of painted Tapa Cloths during this period, was stimulated by European interest in collecting them. In 1929 Jacques Viot, the French surrealist author and art dealer made a trip to the area and collected a number of Tapa cloth that were later exhibited in Paris. These works of art had a great impact on the Paris art scene at that time. Many early 20th Century artists such as Picasso and Joan Miro were influenced by these Tapa paintings.

This is a very fine example Tapa Cloth painting, the artist went to a huge amount of effort to first strip a large tree & prepare the Tapa Bark Cloth before painting the designs.  The designs painted in white, black & red ochre are painted by a very confident artist.

A Superb Large Lake Sentani Bark Cloth Tapa Painting West Papua

This superb large Tapa Bark Cloth Painting from the Lake Sentani area on the Northwest Coast of West Papua.

Made from a single long piece of tree bark taken from the paper mulberry tree that is then pounded flat through a traditional process that is used throughout the island of New Guinea, the rest of Melanesia & Polynesia.

The Tapa Cloths from Lake Sentani and Humboldt Bay in N.W. Irian Jaya is locally known as Maro Smo.

Early accounts of the local people making and wearing decorated Tapa Cloth are sketchy, but it seems that married women wore Tapa Skirts which were decorated with designs.  An early photograph by the ethnographer Paul Wirtz in 1926 shows a large painted Tapa Cloth displayed next to the grave of a young woman.

The Tapa designs that the outside world usually associates with Lake Sentani and Humboldt Bay, were collected in the 1920s and 1930s.

There is evidence to suggest that the manufacture of painted Tapa Cloths during this period, was stimulated by European interest in collecting them. In 1929 Jacques Viot, the French surrealist author and art dealer made a trip to the area and collected a number of Tapa cloth that were later exhibited in Paris. These works of art had a great impact on the Paris art scene at that time. Many early 20th Century artists such as Picasso and Joan Miro were influenced by these Tapa paintings.

Many of the design elements in these contemporary Tapa Cloths are very old traditional designs,. The design on this Tapa Cloth is one of the main Lake Sentani motifs called Fouw, a chiefly design made of interlocking spiral design which is said to represent eternity and is associated with the power of Chiefs. The Fouw design is commonly used on many types of carved objects from the Lake Sentani area, including canoes, paddles, bowls and other items. Other common motifs are animals, birds and fish that are plentiful in their natural environment. There are also depictions powerful mythological spirits that inhabit the bush and the ocean.

This is a very fine example Tapa Cloth painting, the artist went to a huge amount of effort to first strip a large tree & prepare the Tapa Bark Cloth before painting the designs.  The designs painted in white, black & red ochre are painted by a very confident artist.  This is the largest Tapa Cloth Painting I have ever seen after spending many months in villages all around Lake Sentani & Humboldt Bay.

This fine artwork deserves to be in a Museum

A Rare & Beautiful Japanese Jizai Hearth Hook in Male & Female Form

This superb rare form Jizai Hearth Hook is from 18th to 19th Century.

The jizai, or Hearth Hook was part of every traditional Japanese home, they come in different shapes & sizes depending on the home where they were used.

The Jizai was hung over a fire to hold a steel kettle or pot for making tea or cooking, it could be raised or lowered as needed.

This amazing artwork is in a male & female genitalia form. As I have never seen anything like this Jizai I asked a couple of Japanese Art Experts and they said they have never seen an example like this form.  The photos speak for themselves,  it was carved from a single piece of hardwood that had a natural reddish colour and deep old patina from decades of use the Jizai.  The shape just as an artwork is so thoroughly refined in every way.

I am hoping that some very knowledgable person will see this artwork and be able to tell me more about it.  Please let me hear from you if you know anything about this amazing artwork

This is one of my most treasured artworks in my private collection & only due to health issues am I listing for sale now.

 

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