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Part Figure Karawari River Area East Sepik River Province Papua New Guinea


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Collection No. T-3340
Size Height 44cm x 25cm
Part Figure Karawari River Area East Sepik River Province Papua New Guinea
Part Figure Karawari River Area East Sepik River Province Papua New Guinea
Part Figure Karawari River Area East Sepik River Province Papua New Guinea
Part Figure Karawari River Area East Sepik River Province Papua New Guinea
Part Figure Karawari River Area East Sepik River Province Papua New Guinea
Part Figure Karawari River Area East Sepik River Province Papua New Guinea

This a fragment of a Cult Figure called aripa is from the upper Karawari River area in the East Sepik River Province of Papua New Guinea.

These superb artworks from the Karawari River area are some of the finest artworks from all of Papua New Guinea and even in ” World Art “, they are very strong examples of human creativity and spirituality.

The Karawari River is one of the numerous tributaries of the great Sepik River, which drains into the north coast of New Guinea. In a series of caves and rock shelters along the upper reaches of the Karawari, the Ewa people kept a remarkable series of wood carvings like this figure that were created and used by Ewa men during their lifetimes, the carvings were kept after their owners’ deaths. Preserved in the caves for generations, some of the carvings are between 200 and 400 years old, making them some of the oldest surviving examples of wood sculpture from New Guinea.

This figure is not in the ” ancient category ” of being 200- 400 years old as the ancient Karawari Cave Figures, it is more likely to early 20th Century. It has the correct old dry patina and traces of ochre painting.

There are numerous variations in these figures, reflecting the individual visions of the sculptors who created them but the carvings are of three basic types. The first consist of thin, silhouette-like one-legged male figures like my example seemingly made to be viewed in profile. The second is plank-like female figures shown in frontal view, and the third small wood heads mounted on spikes.

The Ewa practised agriculture but they were also heavily dependent on hunting for their livelihood. The rich rain forests that surrounded them provided a variety of game, including wild pigs, tree kangaroos, and cassowaries. The one-legged male figures, called aripa, played a vital part in hunting magic. Representing individual helping spirits, each aripa served as a means by which an Ewa man could maintain contact with, and receive aid from, his helping spirit to bring him success in hunting.

The carvings from the Karawari caves first came to the attention of the wider world about fifty years ago when the Ewa, having changed or abandoned their former beliefs, began to bring the carvings out of their caves and offer them for sale to Westerners. As a result, today these remarkable works of art from the Karawari can be seen in museums and private collections throughout the world.

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

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