A Fine Old Massim Soul Boat Bowl Trobriand Islands Milne Bay Province Papua New Guinea
|Size||Length 45cm ( Figures 17cm tall each)|
A Fine Old Massim Soul Boat from the Trobriand Islands in the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea.
This fine Massim Ancestor Figural carving is from the Milne Bay Province in the Eastern end of Papua New Guinea. The late Dr Harry Beran the world expert on the Massim culture & art described this type of figural carving as a ” Soul Canoe or Soul Boat “. Though this beautiful artwork was carved for trade Dr Beran thought it came from a traditional art object and in his book ” Massim Tribal Art of Papua New Guinea ” Wollongong University 1980 he shows an example (no.140) and described this as s ” Soul Boat; a stylized boat with the detachable human figure in squatting position, the function of these models are uncertain though in a book by Bodrogi suggests that these carvings are soul boats, that is a model boat that provides transportation to the supernatural world of the dead “.
This artwork was made for trade with Europeans and probably dates from before WW2. The artist was a highly skilled carver who made these very beautifully proportioned squatting ancestor figures and incised with 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 confident style & almost certainly made other artworks If anyone knows of a similar artwork, I would be grateful to hear from you.
The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic Art
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