A Fine Paiwan Tribe Ancestor Figure South Taiwan Early 20th Century
This finely carved Ancestor Figure is from the Paiwan People or other closely related indigenous Formosan tribe from the South Taiwan / Formosa Island. Dating from the early 20th Century and showing deep old patina and wear from handling. Carved from a single piece of hardwood and standing on a small square base that has a chip on one corner clearly seen in the photos.
The ancestor figure is of a Paiwan Man who has been successful hunting with wild boar carried by tying the boar’s feet together and the animal becomes a backpack. The man is wearing a traditional Paiwan woven textile kilt and the one hand likely once heald a weapon like a spear or a sword. The artist was highly skilled, the proportions of the figure & the boar he is carrying are accurate but it is the sensitive face that shows the artist was able to capture real emotion of their highly venerated ancestor.
I have included a couple of photos of similar hunting ancestor figures in public museums collections for reference.
Wild boar is an important part of the Paiwan traditional diet but it is also a recurring motif used on Paiwan art objects such as the superb Chief’s House Lintel also on my website.
The Paiwan are one of several indigenous peoples living the mountainous interior of Taiwan. Paiwan society is hierarchical, divided into high nobles, minor nobility, and commoners. In former times, only the high nobility was entitled to create or commission certain forms of human images, which portrayed important ancestors (tsmas). The ancestors, whose supernatural influence was controlled by the nobility, had the power to either help or harm the community, depending on whether their spirits received proper respect through ritual observances and offerings. The houses of Paiwan nobles were both the physical and artistic centres of ancestral power and imagery. The remains of noble ancestors were buried within the houses of their descendants, and their images adorned the doorways, house posts, and other architectural elements. This impressive Lintel likely once adorned a house of a Paiwan noble family.
The designs of a traditional Paiwan Chiefs house are similar to those used on this fine tray & all other manner of daily use objects that honoured their ancestors.
I have been collecting Oceanic Art for 40 years and have always been fascinated with Paiwan & other Taiwan Indigenous tribes art as they are the know ancestors of the ancient Polynesians. The Taiwan Indigenous tribes art styles have connections & influences on not only Polynesian Art but also on Southeast Asian Art and through Indonesia & island of New Guinea.
Provenance: This fine tray came from the collection of the family of Lin Tien Wang who was working with Paiwan Villages in the early 1930s .
The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea Art & Oceanic and Asian Art
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