Mourning Figure Mendi Valley Southern Highland Papua New Guinea
A Rare Mourning Doll from the Mendi Valley area of the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.
Collected 35 years ago in Mendi by an Australian Expat working in the Southern Highlands, he gave it to his daughter in 1985 and she kept it in her home in very good condition for the past 35 years.
These amazing figures were sometimes referred to as “Payback Dolls “in New Guinea Pidgin English, they were kept as a reminder that revenge or “Payback” was to be exacted on the other village for one of their clan having been killed.
This expressive Female Ancestor Figure is quite different from the few other Mendi Mourning Dolls that I saw and collected in Mendi in the early 1980s, they were more formal with a stiff posture of standing figures with the arms held flatly to the sides.
This figure is made from a wood or bamboo frame & then a type of village papier-mache applied over the frame which is made from local bush fibre materials. She is wearing a woven bilum bag on her head & has a necklace of jobs tears (Croix seeds) which are associated with mourning in the Highland of New Guinea. Her teeth are also cleverly made from jobs tears (Croix seeds). She has an animated look with one arm waving and the other hand out front as if receiving something. She looks happy as if she is greeting family in a warm manner.
The Papua New Guinea Highlands cultures make some of the most interesting and beautiful artworks in New Guinea, they are known for their elaborate body decorations and dance ceremonies, and war shields that are both ancient and modern at the same time.
This was kept for my private collection as I think it shows genuine creativity. The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic Art
For further reading on the New Guinea Highlands Art, I suggest the superb book: New Guinea Highlands: Art from the Jolika Collection
The Jolika Collection is The John and Marsha Friede Collection now most of which is part of The De Young Fine Art Museum in San Francisco. Many of the artworks in this publication original came from me. I still have a number of very fine artworks from the New Guinea Highlands & West Papua Highlands in my private collection of New Guinea Art. If you are looking for something specific please ask me.
And the superb exhibition catalogue Plumes & Peal shells: Art of the New Guinea Highlands at the Art Gallery of New South Wales 2014
Both of these fine publications are available on Amazon books