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A Superb New Guinea Humboldt Bay Tapa Bark Cloth Painting West Papua


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Collection No. TB-3622
Size Height 162cm x 101cm
Oceanic Arts Australia buys and sells tribal New Guinea art

A Superb New Guinea Humboldt Bay Tapa Bark Cloth Painting West Papua

This superb large Tapa Bark Cloth Painting from the Humboldt Bay area on the Northwest Coast of West Papua.

The beautiful painting is of a powerful sea spirit which features in the mythology of the Humbold Bay area.

Made from a single long piece of tree bark taken from the paper mulberry tree that is then pounded flat through a traditional process that is used throughout the island of New Guinea, the rest of Melanesia & Polynesia.

The Tapa Cloths from Lake Sentani and Humboldt Bay in N.W. Irian Jaya is locally known as Maro Smo.

Early accounts of the local people making and wearing decorated Tapa Cloth are sketchy, but it seems that married women wore Tapa Skirts which were decorated with designs.  An early photograph by the ethnographer Paul Wirtz in 1926 shows a large painted Tapa Cloth displayed next to the grave of a young woman.

The Tapa designs that the outside world usually associates with Lake Sentani and Humboldt Bay, were collected in the 1920s and 1930s.

There is evidence to suggest that the manufacture of painted Tapa Cloths during this period, was stimulated by European interest in collecting them. In 1929 Jacques Viot, the French surrealist author and art dealer made a trip to the area and collected a number of Tapa cloth that were later exhibited in Paris. These works of art had a great impact on the Paris art scene at that time. Many early 20th Century artists such as Picasso and Joan Miro were influenced by these Tapa paintings.

This is a very fine example Tapa Cloth painting, the artist went to a huge amount of effort to first strip a large tree & prepare the Tapa Bark Cloth before painting the designs.  The designs painted in white, black & red ochre are painted by a very confident artist.