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Gope Board, Giobari Island, Papuan Gulf Area Papua New Guinea


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Collection No. T-4877
Size Height 63cm x 24.5cm
Gope Board, Giobari Island, Papuan Gulf Area Papua New Guinea
Gope Board, Giobari Island, Papuan Gulf Area Papua New Guinea
Gope Board, Giobari Island, Papuan Gulf Area Papua New Guinea
Gope Board, Giobari Island, Papuan Gulf Area Papua New Guinea
Gope Board, Giobari Island, Papuan Gulf Area Papua New Guinea
Gope Board, Giobari Island, Papuan Gulf Area Papua New Guinea

This beautifully carved Spirit Board Gope is from Goaribari Island (also spelt Giobari)  is at the delta of the Kikori and Omati Rivers  in the Papuan Gulf Area on the South Coast of Papua New Guinea

Gope or “Spirit Boards ”  are the embodiment of powerful spirits that represent each clan.  No two Gope boards are the same, sometimes they are made from the sides of old canoes which provide a ready made flat shape to carve the Gope boards from.

In the past, the primary focus of religious and artistic life in the region was on powerful spirits (imunu). Each imunu typically was associated with a specific location in the landscape, rivers, or sea, and was linked to the specific clan within whose territory it dwelt.
Papuan Gulf wood sculpture was primarily two-dimensional, consisting of board-like carvings and figures with designs in low relief. The signature art form was the spirit board, an oblong plank-like object known variously as a gope, koi, or hohao, depending on the region in which it was made. Each served as a dwelling place for an individual imunu, whose image appears on it. Villages formerly had large communal men’s houses divided into cubicles, each allotted to a particular clan or sub clan. Every cubicle contained a clan shrine, which housed the spirit boards, figures, human and animal skulls, and other sacred objects associated with the
clan’s various imunu.

In pre-European contact times the Papuan Gulf people made huge ceremonial houses with peaked roofs called Ravi , this where the Gope Boards and other types of ceremonial objects were kept safe & secret from the uninitiated.  Gope boards were often kept on shrines that had boars skulls and human skulls from headhunting placed around them on racks. Gope boards are one of the most recognisable artworks from the Island of New Guinea. The Papuan Gulf people had complex ceremonial cycles that took sometimes a decade to complete.  There are many art styles styles in the Papuan Gulf stretching from the Elema area the east to the Bamu area in the west, they are also neighbours of the Gogodala & Marind Anim people who live on both sides of the boarder that splits the island between Papua New Guinea and West Papua Indonesia.   This Gope Ancestor Board would date from the 1960’s or earlier. This Gope Board shows the genius of the Giobari Island artists, he was not constrained by the size of shape of the wood, the oversized head and small body work to great visual effect.

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