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Ancestor Figure Abelam People East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea


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Collection No. TB-3445
Size Height 146cm
Ancestor Figure Abelam People East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
Ancestor Figure Abelam People East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
Ancestor Figure Abelam People East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
Ancestor Figure Abelam People East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
Ancestor Figure Abelam People East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea

This finely sculptured Ancestor Figure is from the Abelam People in the Sepik Plains area  in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea

This beautiful carved and ochre painted ceremonial figure is both standing on stylised birds and surmounted by two stylised Horn-bill Birds which are important totemic animals.

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.

This ancestor figure was in the home  of the late Margaret Olley 1923- 2011, she was a famous Australian Artist. I have been looking at her paintings to see if this Abelam figure is depicted in any of the the still life paintings she made of her home & studio.

Exhibited: Oceanic Arts Pacifica: Artworks from the Todd Barlin Collection at The Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre 2014 Sydney Australia

Published :Oceanic Arts Pacifica: Artworks from the Todd Barlin Collection The Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre 2014 Sydney Page 84

Provenance: The Margaret Olley Collection 1923 to 20211. Olley was one of the best known much loved Australian artists and great art patron and mentor to young artists.

The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea & Oceanic Art and Artifacts.

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