A Superb New Guinea Gope Spirit Board Giobari Island Papuan Gulf Area Papua New Guinea
|Height 63cm x 24.5cm
A Superb New Guinea Gope Spirit Board Kerewa People from Giobari Island in Papuan Gulf Area Papua New Guinea
This beautifully carved Gope Spirit Board or titi ebiha is from Goaribari Island (also spelled Giobari) and is at the delta of the Kikori and Omati Rivers in the Papuan Gulf Area on the South Coast of Papua New Guinea. Gope boards are one of the most recognizable artworks from the Island of New Guinea.
Gope Spirit Boards are the embodiment of powerful spirits that represent each clan. No two Gope boards are the same, sometimes they are made from the sides of old canoes which provide a ready-made flat shape to carve the Gope boards from. This Giobari Island Gope is in the form of an abstract spirit head carved in low relief and painted with black & red ochre & white lime (burnt & crushed sea shells).
In the past, the primary focus of religious and artistic life in the region was on powerful spirits (imunu). Each imunu typically was associated with a specific location in the landscape, rivers, or sea, and was linked to the specific clan within whose territory it dwelt.
In pre-European contact times, the Papuan Gulf people made huge Ceremonial Houses with peaked roofs called Ravi, this is where the Gope Spirit Boards and other types of ceremonial objects were kept safe & secret from the uninitiated. Gope boards were often kept on shrines that had boars’ skulls and human skulls from headhunting placed around them on racks.
The Papuan Gulf people had complex ceremonial cycles that took sometimes a decade to complete. There are many distinct art styles in the Papuan Gulf stretching from the Elema area in the east to the Bamu area in the west and they are also neighbors of the Gogodala & Marind Anim people who live on both sides of the border that splits the island between Papua New Guinea and West Papua Indonesia.
This Gope Board shows the genius of the Giobari Island artists, he was not constrained by the size or the shape of the wood, and the oversized head, and the small body both work to great visual effect.
Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea Oceanic Art
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