A Fine Old Monumental Abelam Spirit Figure

This finely sculptured Bird Man Spirit Figure is how a ceremonially ochre painted figure should look when on display inside the men’s cult house. When seen by the initiates for the first time inside the sacred men’s house the Spirit Figures should shimmer with spiritual energy, the ochre painting on the figures is a very important part of Abelam Art.  This is the original ochre paintwork when it was collected in the village setting in the 1960’s.  The Bird Man figure with an extended pot belly and head is surmounted by an ancestor figure laying horizontally & on the opposite side an ancestor head, there are other totemic animals present on this sculpture; a bird, snake.

Provence: Collected in the 1960s by Dr Fred Gerrits.

Gerrits was born in 1933 in Bandung, in Indonesia. After graduating with a degree in medicine in Holland, he settled in Papua New Guinea in the 1950s, where he met his future wife Nel. As of 1964 the Gerrits worked in various hospitals in New Guinea  until Fred was appointed as the Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Officer for the provinces of West and East Sepik, with a base in Maprik at the foot of the Prince Alexander Mountains. Gerrits collection is featured in major museum collections around the world.

The Todd Barlin Collection

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A Superb Asmat Canoe Prow Ormament

This very fine Asmat Sculpture was once on the front of a large war canoe that help 20 or men standing up paddling. The main figure is a highly abstracted figure of a bird, likely a black Cockatoo which is am important Asmat symbol associated with ritual head hunting in their past. The canoe prow can be viewed in either position either as a vertical or horizontal sculpture, my photos show both.  This amazing canoe ornament I field collected  in the remote Northwest Asmat area in 1986.  I was told that it belonged to the grandfather of the owner going back probably to the 1940’s,  it was kept as a family heirloom.  I later sold it to Peter Hallinan and it was a long time part of his famous collection on the Gold Coast in Queensland.

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A Pair of Finely Carved Portrait Heads, Middle Sepik

A Pair of finely carved wood Ancestor Portrait Heads, Middle Sepik River Area, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea

This pair of ancestor heads are so sensitively rendered as if they are portraits of real people that the artist knew. Depicting a male & female ancestor. They are each carved from a single piece of hardwood and decorated with real human hair, and caved wood ear ornaments that look like real shells , the eyes have inset shells  and the ear lobes have shell earrings.  Both are finely painted in red, white & black ochre.

The base of these heads are socketed so that they could have been placed on a larger figurative sculpture as is common in the Middle Sepik area. Sometimes these wood heads were replacements for older over-modelled skulls of deceased relatives that were part of the ancient ceremonies of ancestor worship.

Provenance: Collected in 1958 by an Australian Colonial Patrol Officer

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Monumental Figure of A Crocodile Man Ancestor holding a Woman

This monumental figure of an anthropomorphic Crocodile Man holding a woman is from the middle Sepik River area of Papua New Guinea.

Carved from a single large piece of timber, with ochre painted decorations and ground Conis Shell Eyes.

This represents a  story of a woman taken into the river by a Crocodile Man Spirit.  The Middle Sepik Communities have many stories and mythologies about Crocodiles; often they are sorcerers in disguise.  Young men when initiated are given scarification on their bodies that look and represent crocodile’s skin.

According to Crispin Howarth at The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra “ each community has its own artistic canon, history and cosmology, according to an origin myth of the Iatmul people, who live along the banks of the middle length of the river, the world was created by a primordial crocodile that swam everything into being. Every time the floods came, it was thought to be the primal crocodile settling down into the waters, as the land and the crocodile’s back are one and the same. Earthquakes were signs that the crocodile was moving. The jaws of a crocodile symbolically represent this worldview: the upper jaw is the sky and all within it and the lower jaw is the land and the river and everything upon and in it”

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A Pair of 19th Century Lime Spatulas, Admiralty Islands

This pair of fine 19th Century Islands Lime Spatulas are beautifully carved with ancestor figure finials, the figure on the right is of a classical Admiralty style , the male figure is standing on a crocodile head which is an important clan totem,  the Spatula on the left in this photo shows a standing male ancestor and wearing a distinctly German army hat.  The Admiralty Islands were part of Germany New Guinea from 1884 until 1912 when the Australian and British authorities kicked the Germans out of New Guinea during WWI.

The utensils made for chewing betel nut are some of the most beautiful small scale carvings made in New Guinea and these lime spatulas are great examples powerful small  sculptures.

Provenance: Francis Edgar Williams (1893-1943) born in South Australia in 1893. Williams gained a diploma of Anthropology from Oxford University. In 1922 he became assistant government anthropologist in Papua and two years later he took the full position of Government Anthropologist , he carried out extensive anthropological work in  a number of areas in Papua & published several books such as “ The Papuans of the Trans Fly 1936 “.  Williams died in New Guinea in a plane crash during WWII.

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An Early Woomera, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland

This Woomera of elegant form and carved from hardwood , the top has the original peg where the spear is slotted when used. The woomera extends you arm length and greatly increases the distance the spear will travel.  The bottom has a cut baler shell the is kept in place with resin or wax.  This type of woomera with the shell handle is unique to the Cape York Peninsula area.

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An Early Bardi Shield, West Australia

This finely carved shield with herringbone design on the front and coated with red ochre, the back has incised linear striations in horizontal bands. The deep lug handle and entire shield has old use patina.

One of the most beautiful motifs in aboriginal art is the herringbone design, a design prominent at one time or another in many parts of the world, including ancient Greece, China and Peru.

Reference:

Interlocking Key Design in Aboriginal Australian Decorative Art. Dr. D. S. Davidson First published: September 1949

Provenance:
­The Bridgeport Family who were early settlers in West Australia.

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Tiwi Dance Spear, Melville Island Northern Territory

This fine and early Tiwi Ceremonial Dance Spear is carved from a single piece of hardwood. The spear has deeply incised vertical striations over the entire surface from the top to the bottom grip, it is finely painted with ochre decoration with bands of colour and small dots .

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An Old Shield, Central Australia

The finely carved and painted bean wood shield has incised linear striations on both sides and was coated with a background of red ochre. The front of the shield is brightly painted blue, red & yellow depicting a abstracted snake outlined in blue.

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