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Canoe Ornament Humboldt Bay West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia

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Collection No. T-1045
Size 38cm x 50cm
Canoe Ornament Humboldt Bay West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia

This beautiful old Canoe Ornament is from the Humboldt Bay area on the Northwest Coast of West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia. These Canoe Ornaments are like no other type of New Guinea Art, they use totemic animals like birds & fish but incorporated them together in very imaginative ways, sometimes they were morphing out of each other or stacked and joined in many amazing ways.

In the  1980’s I visited most all of the villages up & down the coast, one day I went to the village of Demta which is a large village with about 50 canoes sitting on the beach,  each canoe had a Canoe Ornament on the front.  After spending part of the day there I asked some men ” would you like to sell their canoe prow ornaments ? ”  The answer was ” No we need them ”   I was perplexed but they then explained those canoe ornaments protected people when fishing from bad weather and other dangers and they helped to provide a successful fishing trip. So none of the ornaments on the canoes could be sold but they said they had old ones that were from parents or grandparents old ruined canoes. This was good news for me that I could buy some Canoe Ornaments after all & ones that didn’t have store paint on them.  This story was repeated up and down the coast to almost all the villages I visited.


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