< Back

A Fine Old New Guinea Neckrest Middle Sepik River Papua New Guinea

Enquire About This Artworks >
Collection No. TB-2470
Size Length : 55cm
New Guinea & Oceanic Art
New Guinea Oceanic Art
Abelam New Guinea Art

A Fine Old New Guinea Dog Shaped Neckrest or Headrest from the Middle Sepik River Area Papua New Guinea

This finely carved Dog shaped Neckrest is from the Iatmul or Sawos People who live in the Middle Sepik River area in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea.

Some Neckrests, used by elders, served as marks of secular and religious authority, they are often adorned with images of spirits, ancestors, or other supernatural beings, and some also had magical properties.

The headrest is imbued with an especially significant spirituality because of its association with the mystical aura of sleep. Sleep was recognized as the most intimate relationship with the spirit realm, therefore the decoration on headrests was especially intertwined with their spiritual beliefs. Furthermore, the human head is associated with concepts of power, therefore anything that was created to support this power was subsequently revered.

The artist who carved this Neckrest was very skilled, the standing dog looks as if it’s in motion walking.  It has an old rope where it was hung on the wall when not in use. Dating from the 1940s.  This Dog Neckrest is one of my favorite  New Guinea sculptures.

For Western people, the idea of this kind of wood pillow or neckrest looks extremely uncomfortable but almost every culture in the world made and used wood neckrests so they must have been ok sleeping.  In Papua New Guinea some tribes had a large hairdo that they didn’t want to flatten while sleeping hence the wood neckrest kept their hair in good shape.

Dogs in New Guinea arrived with people that navigated their way through populating the Pacific Islands. The New Guinea dogs look much like the Australia Dingo.  Dogs have great importance for the people on the Island of New Guinea, dogs are essential for hunting wild boar & cassowary (a large flightless bird like an emu). When men go out to hunt they always take their dogs with them to help find and corner these animals.

Dogs also have a very important place in the mythology & ceremonial life of Melanesians. Dogs can also be a clan totem.

The other aspect of Dogs in New Guinea is that their canine teeth the sharp ones at the front are an important type of traditional wealth after the dogs die their teeth are saved and pierced at the top of the tooth and made into necklaces and other beautiful ornaments. The dogs were so important as traditional wealth the Germans before WW1 made them out of porcelain in Germany and then used as money to pay the local people to work on copra plantations.

Provenance:  The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea and Sepik River Art


If you have a similar “object” for sale please contact me for the best price and honest advice by a Government approved valuer 

To see many more rare items and the finest masterpieces, please make an appointment with us to visit the gallery.

For all inquiries, please contact us.