Two Superb Massim Chiefs Clubs 19th Century

These two superbly early Massim Chief’s Clubs are from the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Gunia. Dating from the 19th Century, these beautiful old clubs were an emblem of high status and prestige for the men who once owned them. Both Clubs were carved by a master carver with refined elements including ancestors’ faces on the finials, stylized birds, a snake & scrolling designs that the Massim are renowned for.

Culturally the Milne Bay region is referred to as “the Massim,” a term originating from the name of Misima Island but is used to describe the artworks from the whole province made of 600 islands, about 160 of which are inhabited.

The regional trading systems of the islands around the eastern end of New Guinea are called Kula and are particularly elaborate trading systems where men had lifetime trading partners and social obligations and shell ornaments and cultural objects that constantly moved between communities.

The Massim artists are well known for their beautiful artworks such as Canoe Ornaments and their amazing Lime Spatulas used when chewing betel nut.  The Massim is one of my favorite art styles as their art is non-aggressive and also reminds me of the art of Lake Sentani an area in West Papua where I spent a lot of time.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic Art

Finely Carved Pig by the 19th Century Massim Master Carver Mutuaga

A Finely Carved Figure of a Pig by the 19th Century Massim Master Carver Mutuaga, (1860–1920) Dagodagoisu Village, Sua Area, Milne Bay Province, New Guinea

In a field where virtually all of the many thousands of carvers remain unidentified, Mutuaga stands alone as a master carver whose work has been celebrated, collected and is also the subject of much scholarly research and publication.

Born around 1860, Mutuaga lived and worked in Dagodagoisu village in the Milne Bay province of Papua New Guinea. He died in the early 1920s. We know a great deal about him, in part because he was befriended by Charles Abel of the London Missionary Society. This friendship began in the 1890s.

Although Mutuaga did not adopt Christianity, Abel became his patron and promoted his carvings among European missionaries, traders, and visitors in the area. Abel provided an outlet for Mutuaga’s carvings beyond the traditional exchange practices of his community. Commodores and even two of Papua’s first governors acquired Mutuaga’s sculptures.

Many of these works later found their way into galleries and museums across the world, even into the collections of artists such as Jacob Epstein.

We are also fortunate in the extensive research and writings of the art historian the late Dr. Harry Beran who has studied Mutuaga at length. Beran identified Mutuaga and his body of work through some hundred sculptures that had been languishing largely unrecognized in museum collections and were published in the book “MUTUAGA A 19th Century Master Carver “1996

Harry was an old friend and this Mutuaga Pig & another Mutuaga Standing Ancestor Figure were to be published in an updated book on artworks by Mutuaga.

Provence: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic Art

Nine Early Micronesian Ancestor Figures

A Collection of Nine Early Micronesian Figures, Early Japanese Colonial Period, (Early 20th Century)

These interesting figures are all finely carved in squatting position, their stylized facial features and angular bodies with shell eyes, these figures embody the spare, minimalist approach to the human form typical of the sculptural traditions of the Caroline Islands of Micronesia in the western Pacific. These figures are from the early Japanese Colonial era in the early 20th Century, they were likely made for trade or sale but still had a living connection to ancestor figures that were made traditional ancestor worship & protection. Later examples of figures did not show detailed gender/ genitalia but all of these figures are clearly male & female which makes them early examples.

The collection of nine figures is in three pairs of matched male & female ancestor figures in varying sizes and another small set of three (two females & one male)

The largest set: Male figure at far left-back is 21.5cm & Female at far right-back is 18.5cm

The next set with great heads and expressions: 12.5cm & 12cm

The next Set is 8cm each

The Smallest Set of three are 6.5cm -7cm

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic Art

A Finely Woven & Painted Dilly Bag Western Arnhem Land Northern Australia

This very finely woven and painted Dilly Bag is made from pandanus fibre. It is from the Western Arnhem Land area in the Northern Territory of Australia.  Dating from the 1960s

This beautifully painted Dilly Bag has the design which appears to be two rows of interconnected dancing figures in white ochre.

Unpainted Dilly Bags were used regularly for collecting bush food but more elaborate painted bags sometimes with feathers attached were used in traditional ceremonies and were carried by dancers & young people.  Above is a photo of a man painting a ceremonial Dilly Bag.

In Arnhem Land both at rock art sights and on Bark Paintings you can see images of Mimi Spirits & people carrying Dilly Bags on their back. The rock art showing the continuous use of these beautifully made bags made & used over long periods of time.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic and Aboriginal A

 

A Finely Woven & Painted Dilly Bag Central Arnhem Land Northern Australia

This very finely woven and painted Dilly Bag is made from pandanus fibre. It was collected from Nangark Community in Central Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia.  Dating from the 1960s

Unpainted Dilly Bags were used regularly for collecting bush food but more elaborate painted bags sometimes with feathers attached were used in traditional ceremonies and were carried by dancers & young people.  Above is a photo of a man painting a ceremonial Dilly Bag.

In Arnhem Land both at rock art sights and on Bark Paintings you can see images of Mimi Spirits & people carrying Dilly Bags on their back. The rock art showing the continuous use of these beautifully made bags made & used over long periods of time.

The basket came with an original typed museum label that was used for display. Label reads:

Made by Miwulka

Language Group Gunei

Clan Angubarrbarr / Subsection Ngalgodjok

Nangark Central Arnhem Land

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic and Aboriginal A

 

Set of Six Fine Aboriginal Ceremonial Spears Northern Territory Australia

This set of six finely carved & painted Ceremonial Spears is from Wadeye (previously known as Port Keats) in the Northern Territory of Australia. They were collected in the mid-1960s

Wadeye is a remote Aboriginal community 420 kilometers by road southwest of Darwin.

Traditional owners Kardu Diminin, consisting of 22 Clan groups living in Wadeye who are traditional owners for areas in the surrounding region. The main language is Murrinh-patha.

Ceremonial Spears were made and use during the initiation of young boys into manhood, carried by ceremonial dancers, and they were used in peacemaking ceremonies call Makarrata meaning “an Aboriginal ceremonial ritual symbolizing the restoration of peace after a dispute”.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic and Aboriginal  Art.

Four Rare Nakanai Painted Sago Spathe Panels New Britain Ex Moriarty Collection

Four Rare Sago Spathe Panels Nakanai People New Britain Island the Bismarck Archipelago, part of the Islands Region of Papua New Guinea.

These four beautifully painted panels are a bit of a mystery, they were in the Stan Moriarty Collection in his home in the 1960s, attached is a photo in his home that shows a wall of these paintings at the back of the room and two large circular panels these sago spathe paintings on the ceiling. These four paintings were in Moraiarty’s home at the same time.  There is not much known about these amazing paintings and how they were used in New Britain. They depict ancestor figures wearing elaborate headdresses that are well known in New Britain cultures.  Not much else is known about them and if you have any knowledge about these paintings, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Provenance: Ex Stan Moriarty Collection Sydney Australia in the 1960s.

The John and Marcia Frieda Collection, New York

The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic Art

Australian Aboriginal Bark Painting Western Arnhem Land

This beautiful Bark Painting is from the Western Arnhem Land area of the Northern Territory of Australia.

Dating from the 1970s and depicting the rare image of a female Namarrkon Lightning Spirit, there are both Male and Female Namarrkon the lightning Spirit but females are by far rarer.

Namarrkon is the lightning spirit, the source of the fierce tropical storms in Western Arnhem Land during the wet season. During the dry season, they live in a billabong not far from Numbuwah, a sacred rock in Western Arnhem Land. They only venture out occasionally to hunt for food around his lagoon. In the wet season, Namarrkon lives among the storm clouds. They sit in the clouds looking down and watching the people below. This is the time they get angry and creates flashes of lightning, loud thunder, and then torrential rain. From late October his thunder signals bush food is ready to harvest. This is the start of the ‘build-up’ season before the proper rains come.

Namarrkon’ s presence gets stronger through the wet season. In January and February Namarrkon strikes trees and splits them with his axes – causing lightning. Their presence and hence the monsoon season subside in early March. They make lightning flashes with lightning rods that go around his body. These flashes extend from his ears to his genitals. No one ventures near this lagoon or touches the bush food near Namarrkon’ s camp. They remain undisturbed and happy and only growls in his ‘thunder voice’ if someone comes too close.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic and Australian Aboriginal rt

 

Old Australian Aboriginal Bark Painting Central Arnhem Land 1960s

This beautiful old Bark Painting is from the Central Arnhem Land area in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Dating from the 1960s when there were many senior artists working in the old style of ceremonial painting.  This painting is part of mythological and ceremonial stories of the artist’s clan. The large central figure with outstretched arms is surrounded by totemic creatures and on the left is a group of people performing a ceremony, one figure is wearing an elaborate ceremonial headdress.

The complex imagery of this bark painting would only be fully understood by the artist & his clan who hold the stories to these images in their oral and ceremonial history.

The painting is in good condition for being about 55 years old.

Natural Ochre on Stringy Bark

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic and Australian Aboriginal Art

 

An Early Massim Figure from Milne Bay Province New Guinea

This fine Massim Ancestor Figure carving is from the Milne Bay Province in the Eastern end of Papua New Guinea.  This artwork was made for sale or trade with Europeans and probably dates from WW2 or slightly earlier. The carving of a male ancestor is unusual in that shows the male genitals, the early Missionaries in Milne Province discouraged anatomical correct carvings and you see most of the artworks from the early 20th Century are all without genitals.  It’s interesting if the carver of this figure was not particularly ” Christian minded “and didn’t care about offending anyone or just was being slightly provocative. The artist was a highly skilled carver who not only made a very beautifully proportioned figure he also decorated it with deeply incised spiral designs that the Massim artists are well known for.

Culturally the Milne Bay region is referred to as “the Massim,” a term originating from the name of Misima Island but is used to describe the artworks from the whole province made of 600 islands, about 160 of which are inhabited.

The regional trading systems of the islands around the eastern end of New Guinea are called Kula and are particularly elaborate trading systems where men had lifetime trading partners and social obligations and shell ornaments and cultural objects that constantly moved between communities.

The Massim artists are well known for their beautiful artworks such as Canoe Ornaments and their amazing Lime Spatulas used when chewing betel nut.  The Massim is one of my favorite art styles as their art is non-aggressive and also reminds me of the art of Lake Sentani an area in West Papua where I spent a lot of time.

This artist has a distinct style & almost certainly made other artworks, it’s too bad that my old friend the late Dr. Harry Beran is not still alive to ask if he had any similar artworks in his archive. If anyone knows of a similar artwork I would be grateful to hear from you,

Provence: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic Art