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A Superb Old Men’s Ceremonial Apron Southern Highlands Papua New Guinea


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Collection No. TB-831
Size 107cm x 41cm
A Superb Old Men’s Ceremonial Apron Southern Highlands Papua New Guinea
A Superb Old Men’s Ceremonial Apron Southern Highlands Papua New Guinea
A Superb Old Men’s Ceremonial Apron Southern Highlands Papua New Guinea
A Superb Old Men’s Ceremonial Apron Southern Highlands Papua New Guinea
A Superb Old Men’s Ceremonial Apron Southern Highlands Papua New Guinea
A Superb Old Men’s Ceremonial Apron Southern Highlands Papua New Guinea
A Superb Old Men’s Ceremonial Apron Southern Highlands Papua New Guinea
A Superb Old Men’s Ceremonial Apron Southern Highlands Papua New Guinea

This beautiful Men’s Ceremonial Pig Tail Apron is from the Mendi Valley area of the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.

The people of the Highlands of New Guinea their artistic expression was mainly in the form of elaborate body decorations & paint. Men & women would decorate themselves with woven & shell & teeth ornaments & importantly boars tusks.  Pigs are the most important type of traditional wealth for the people of the highlands of Papua New Guinea, so this  Men’s Ceremonial Pig Tail Apron shows a man’s wealth and status from the pigtail tassels on this ceremonial apron. Pigs were always at the center of bonding tribal clan groups into alliances and marriages where pigs were killed and distributed and debts were owed in pigs in the future.

For the knitted piece of the apron, a man requires a tree bark which will be hand-rolled into a sturdy string rope. Pigs’ tails are in ready supply, even though they are somewhat in demand for ornamenting various other objects too. A man will collect them over a period of time, from animals he slaughters and those killed by relatives and friends.

On the larger aprons like this fine example, he suspends them from the ends of the streamers that hang down from the pinafore piece. He removes the bone from the tails before tying them on,

The most important aspect is the bright colours applied to the front of the Apron, in the past people only had ochre colours but since the 1970s they have been able to buy bright store paint in the trade stores where it was sold in small quantities for people use as face paint or paint for ceremonial objects.  Bright colours add spiritual power to objects and as on this apron, they have used three primary colors of Yellow, Blue & Red.

When I was visiting the Highlands regularly in the 1980s these aprons were not common and highly prized as when they were offered for sale their price indicated the real value for the man who wanted to sell his apron.

Provenance: The beautiful example came from the Elizabeth Price Collection.  The Todd BArtlin Collection of Oceanic Art

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