Kowar Ancestor Figure Geelvink Bay West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia
This fine old Korwar Ancestor Figure is from the Geelvink Bay area on the NW Coast of West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia. Dating from the late 19th Century to early 20th Century. Carved by a very skilled artist from a single piece of wood. The figures hair is made of cassowary bird feathers neatly put into small holes over the entire head. This figure is unusual do to it having a child carried on his or her back.
The peoples of the coasts and islands of Cenderawasih Bay in northwest New Guinea formerly created Korwar, figures that portrayed recently deceased ancestors. Korwar images served as supernatural intermediaries, allowing the living to communicate with the dead, who remained actively involved in family and community affairs. When a family member died, his or her relatives summoned a carver, typically a religious specialist, who created a korwar and enticed the spirit of the deceased to enter it.
Although the sex of the figures is often difficult to determine, all were either male or female, depending on the gender of the deceased. Kept by the family, korwar were consulted during crises and prior to important undertakings, such as trading voyages, warfare, or fishing. When a Korwar‘s advice proved sound, it was shown great deference. However, if the advice a korwar provided proved wrong, the living at times vented their anger on the figure, hurling it against the walls or house posts or even destroying it.
Many Surrealists artists gained inspiration from Korwar Figures and Oceanic Art in general. The surrealist movement in art and literature flourished in the early twentieth century it was aimed at expressing imaginative dreams and visions free from conscious rational control. Salvador Dali was an influential surrealist painter.
Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea and Oceanic Art.
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