Cult House Finial Sepik River Area East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
This superb old Ceremonial House finial was off the very pinnacle of the roof of sacred Men’s Cult House or Haus Tambaran belonging to the Iatmul People in the Middle Sepik River area in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. In the form a powerful standing male ancestor with a totemic crocodile on his back and totemic bird standing on his head.
The art of the Iatmul, and neighbouring peoples in the Middle Sepik region of northeastern New Guinea is primarily associated with their impressive men’s ceremonial houses (see the above photo of one of these cult houses) they are seen as the embodiment of primordial female ancestors. The triangular gables at either end of Iatmul men’s houses rise into steep peaks crowned by separately carved wood finials that depict human figures with birds and in this case a totemic crocodile. In some instances, the human images are said to represent enemies subdued by the power of the village’s totemic beings. In this interpretation, the bird symbolises the village’s martial strength, which in former times assured victory in war. According to other accounts, the finial images represent the dual nature of the primordial bird-men and bird-women, who originally created the sacred musical instruments, consisting of bamboo flutes and slit gongs that were kept within the ceremonial houses and played a central role in ritual life.
This Roof Finial would date from the 1930’s – 1940’s conservatively. From an old Australian Collection.