A Fine Old New Guinea Massim Ancestor Figure from Milne Bay Province Eastern Papua New Guinea
A Fine Old Massim Ancestor Figure from Milne Bay Province Eastern Papua New Guinea This figure dates from the early 20th Century
This fine old and large Massim Squatting Ancestor Figure is from the Milne Bay Province in Eastern Papua New Guinea. Finely carved in a naturalistic style sitting with the elbows resting on the knees & the hands held under the chin, carved from a single piece of hardwood, and the incised designs and facial features are highlighted with white lime.
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 squatting figure is a style of figure that runs from all the way from the indigenous people of Taiwan through SE Asia; Indonesia & the Philippines and throughout the Island of New Guinea.
The Massim are well known for other types of beautiful artworks like their intricately carved canoe ornaments and fantastically imaginative Lime Spatulas. The Massim are also known for their great maritime skills and a complex trading system called the Kula Ring. Kula is also the name for certain ornaments & wealth objects like stone axe blades and shell money. These valuables are traded purely for the purpose of enhancing one’s social status and prestige.
Carefully prescribed customs and traditions surround the ceremonies that accompany the exchanges which establish strong, ideally lifelong relationships between the exchange parties (karayta’u, “partners”). The act of giving is a display of the greatness of the giver, accompanied by shows of exaggerated modesty in which the value of what is given is actively played down. Such a partnership involves strong mutual obligations such as hospitality, protection, and assistance. Kula valuables never remain for long in the hands of the recipients; rather, they must be passed on to other partners within a certain amount of time, thus constantly circling around the ring. However, even temporary possession brings prestige and status. Important chiefs can have hundreds of partners while less significant participants may only have fewer than a dozen.
Provenance: Old Collection Australia and The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea Oceanic Art
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