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

 

Three Fine Maori Orators Staffs 19th Century

Three finely carved Maori Orators Staffs tokotoko.  These beautifully carved Maori Artworks are likely from the late 19th Century or very early 20th Century.

From Left to Right in the group photo:

Far Left: A Fine Maori Orators Staff with a well-carved Ancestor Figure near the handle and another midway down the staff both with pearl-shell eyes, the spiral motifs covering most of the surface was carved a very confident master carver.

Middle: The spatulate form Staff is fully incised on both sides it comprises three large stylized ancestor faces with inset pearl shell eyes and separated by finely incised spiral designs except for the very bottom handle or about 30cm out of the height of 122cm,

Right: A Fine Maori Orators Staff with a well-carved Ancestor Figure in acrobat style near the handle and another face midway down the staff both the figure and the face have pearl-shell eyes, the spiral motifs covering most of the surface was carved a very confident master carver.

I am not an expert on Maori designs and I would be happy to hear from someone more knowledgeable

Maori artists made some of the most beautiful artworks ever made by human beings.

All three artworks have a fine custom-made stand so they can be displayed on the floor or on a table

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic & Polynesian Art

 

Old Basket Hook Figure Lower Sepik River Early 20th Century

This fine old used Basket Hook Figure is from the Coastal Sepik area in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea.  Carved in the form of a standing male ancestor, his legs are slightly bent and his hands held to his hips. The way that the legs and arms are positioned gives the figure a feeling of movement. The shoulders are positioned unnaturally on the front of the body and that is one of the most delightful aspects of Sepik artists, their artworks can be surreal.

At the base of the figure, there are remnants of a hook that were either missing or never fully carved, there is still enough of a hook to hang a traditional string bilum bag.  Basket hooks were used to hang from the ceiling by a rope and string bags of food or other important objects that then could not be reached by rats or mice.  A simple effective technology used by cultures around the world.   The surface of this figure has a small dimpled carving & marking of traditional rasps and a nice aged patina.

Sepik River artists made many beautiful unitarian art objects that were both functional and a way of honouring and making visible their ancestors on a daily basis.

Basket Hook Figures have always been a favourite type of artwork for me to collect, they are some of the most beautiful objects made in the Sepik River area and have so much variation in forms & style.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Private Collection of Oceanic Art

A Superb Waskuk Ritual Pottery Head Kwoma People Upper Sepik River PNG

This Ceremonial Pottery Head is from the Kwoma People in the Waskuk Area of the Upper Sepik River area of the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. It was collected in the 1960s & is really the finest Kwoma Pottery Head I have ever owned.

These Pottery Heads called Wasau were used during these Yam Harvest Ceremonies on the ceremonial platforms.  These pottery heads relate to a specific myth about an ancestor called Sopermel who carried a Wasau in his belly.

See:  The Traditional Pottery of Papua New Guinea by May & Tuckson 1982 page 218 for the full story as recorded by Christian Kauffmann.

Ritual leaders organize the Yina ceremony at yam harvest time. The next two ceremonies featuring their own sculpted images of Mindja and Nokwi and must also be performed before the full harvest and consumption beings.

Older ritual objects are hidden in garden huts, away from the village. They have acquired power over time and through use. For the annual ceremony both old and new objects are freshly painted. They are firstly covered in black paint and left to dry. Only on the final day before the ceremony is the other colours; red, yellow, and white added.

The ceremony takes place inside the men’s Ceremonial house (korob) A platform is built, and while one major Yina figure is displayed as a focus, other Yina’s and Wasau pottery heads are used. The pottery heads are particularly beautiful when displayed on the ceremonial platform.

Slit gong drums are played and songs of myth relating to the yam harvest are sung. At the finish of the ceremony, the cult objects are wrapped tightly in sheaths from the black palm and returned to the garden hut.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Private Collection of Oceanic Art

REFERENCES:

Bowden, Ross Yena: Art and Ceremony In a Sepik Society Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford 1983
Newton, Douglas Crocodile & Cassowary Museum of Primitive Art, NY.
Wardwell, Allen Island Ancestors Oceanic Art form the Masco Collection University of Washington Press   1994

May & Tuckson: The Traditional Pottery of Papua New Guinea by Bay Books Sydney 1982

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