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A Fine Old New Guinea Spirit Figure Upper Karawari River East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea

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Collection No. TB-2736
Size Height 57cm
New Guinea & Oceanic Art
New Guinea Oceanic Art
Abelam New Guinea Art

A Fine old New Guinea Spirit Figure Aripa from the Ewa People in the Upper Karawari River Area in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea.

Carved from a single piece of hardwood the small face near the top of the figure with round concentric eyes the body area has incised designs, and the whole figure is highly curved which gives it a feeling of movement, the figure has a dark old patina overall.

There are numerous variations in these figures both in the full size and amulet figures reflecting the individual visions of the sculptors who created them but the carvings have a few basic types, like this fine example that consists of a thin curved figure with a face near the top, often have opposing hooks over the head and below but in this example, there is only a remnant of a hook on top of the head.  The figure is only fully viewed in profile like the much large Yipwon figures.

The Karawari River is one of the numerous tributaries of the great Sepik River, which drains into the north coast of New Guinea.

The upper Karawari River is known for a remarkable series of wood sculptures 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.

The Ewa practiced 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.

It comes with a high-quality custom-made stand that makes the figure appear to be floating in space.

Provenance:  The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea Oceanic Art 



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