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A Superb Old New Guinea Ancestor Figure Abelam People East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea

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Collection No. TB-1392
Size Height 68cm
New Guinea Oceanic Art
New Guinea & Oceanic Art
Asian Buddhist Art
Australia Aboriginal Bark Painting

A Superb Old New Guinea Ancestor Spirit Figure from the Abelam People in the Prince Alexander Mountains  in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea 

This beautifully carved and ochre-painted Ancestral Spirit Figure is surmounted by two Horn-bill Birds which are important totemic birds for the Abelam people, birds in New Guinea art can be important clan totems and also anthropomorphic spirit beings that are half man; primordial bird-men, and bird-women who in their creation mythology originally created sacred musical instruments, consisting of bamboo flutes and slit gongs that were kept within the ceremonial houses and played a central role in ritual life of their communities.

The Abelam people practice perhaps the longest and most spectacular initiation cycle of any New Guinea people. Beginning in childhood, each Abelam male must pass through eight separate initiation rites over the course of twenty to thirty years, before he is a fully initiated man. Each successive ritual requires both a physical ordeal and the viewing of increasingly elaborate displays of sacred objects in specially constructed chambers within the men’s ceremonial house. This process continues until the final rites, in which the initiate is shown the largest and most sacred of all displays—the brilliantly painted figures and other images portraying the powerful clan spirits called nggwalndu and ancestor figures. The largest nggwalndu images are used during this final ritual. Although nggwalndu figures are impressive works of sculpture, to the Abelam, their power lies in the bright polychrome ochre paint applied to their surfaces. For the Abelam, paint is a magical substance that endows the figures with supernatural power and beauty. This figure was collected in the 1950s and would date from that period or a bit earlier.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea & Oceanic Art.

I first went to Papua New Guinea in 1985 for an adventure & what I found was that I really enjoyed being with the people of New Guinea, over the next 38 years I spent extensive time spent collecting and documenting traditional art & ceremonies in remote areas of Papua New Guinea & West Papua, The Solomon Islands & Vanuatu & the other Pacific Islands countries. During these travels, I made major collections of New Guinea & Oceanic Art for major Museums and Public Art Galleries

I was honoured by being in the prestigious Louvre Museum Magazine for the collections I made for The Museum of African & Oceanic Art Paris in1996 (now the Musee Quai Branly) for the exhibition “Asmat et Mimika d’ Irian Jaya April 1996 At THE MUSEE NATIONAL des ARTS D’AFRIQUE et d’ OCEANIE, Paris

See all of the links & photos in my new EXHIBITIONS GALLERY and there is the link to the article in the prestigious Louvre Magazine 1996

I have artwork for Museums & Art Galleries but also for collectors at every stage of their collecting. I want to encourage people to explore the fine art of New Guinea & West Papua and the Pacific Islands and to be able to see and touch the artworks in a relaxed and friendly manner in my Sydney Gallery.  I would like to invite you to visit my gallery and see the artworks in person and also look at my website www.oceanicartsaustralia.com  where there are many Galleries & Sub Galleries to explore.

My Gallery of nearly 40 years is the last physical gallery in Sydney that specialises in New Guinea & Oceanic Art. Sydney is just a couple hours’ flight to New Guinea & the Pacific Islands where all of these amazing artworks came from, Australia’s closest neighbours.


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

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