A Fine Old Ancestor Figure Abelam People East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
A Fine Old Ancestor Figure from the Abelam People in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea
This finely sculptured Male Ancestor Figure is from the Abelam People in the Prince Alexander Mountains in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea
This beautifully carved and ochre-painted ceremonial figure is surmounted by two stylized Horn-bill Birds which are important totemic birds for the Abelam people.
The Abelam people of the Prince Alexander Mountains north of the Sepik River 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 poly-chrome 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 1950’s and would date from that period or a bit earlier.
Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea & Oceanic Art .
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