A Superb Large Boomerang Club Holt Coll 19th Century

This rare large Fighting Boomerang Club was referred to as from “Central Australia” but it is a very large area of desert that spans the three states of South Australia, Central Australia & Western Australia. The old photo shows men fighting with these large boomerang clubs in South Australia.

Large Fighting Boomerangs Clubs are extremely rare and are highly sought by collectors because of their size graceful shape. This Boomerang has finely incised designs including a human figure and above the human figure is other designs that look like a landscape and could be read as a human figure traveling through the landscape or the owner’s traditional lands.  The figure reminds me of the rare abstracted carved wood figures from Jigalong. Jigalong is in the Pilbara area of Western Australia.

Provenance: Ex Dr Gerald Holt Collection. Late 19th Century. Painted in white paint on boomerang is H16 which is clearly a Holt Number in his own handwriting.

The Dr. Gerald Holt Collection was one of the most famous early collections ever privately assembled in Australia belonged to Dr. Gerald Holt. He was first exposed to Aboriginal culture on his father’s cattle station in Queensland. His habit of trawling through shops that sold artifacts in the years prior to World War I became a life-long hobby. Fascinated by them since childhood, Holt discovered that boomerangs had many uses. They could be thrown above a flock of flying birds in a manner that resembled the movement of a hawk. This would send the birds diving toward the ground, where they were caught in nets or killed by missile clubs. Boomerangs were also thrown at fish, used for sport, as musical instruments when two were tapped together, and to start fires when rubbed briskly across Beanwood shields. Some of the finest examples were never thrown but owned as prestige items by important men and sometimes traded over great distances.

Boomerangs are also unique as they were used both as sacred objects when painted for ceremonies, and as secular utilitarian hunting tools when the paint was washed off. Holt recorded seeing Aboriginal men use them to spectacular effect during corroborees. They would light both ends and then throw them like catherine wheels, spinning through the night sky. After European settlement music hall performers used them to amaze their audiences with feats such as catching a thrown boomerang whilst blindfolded.

The Todd Barlin Private Collection of Oceanic Art


A Superb Japanese Tengu Mask from the19th Century

This superb old Mask is from Japan and was carved in the 19th Century. The artist was a master carver who could take a piece of wood and turn it into a powerful artwork that looks alive.  This mask is a favourite of mine and I always feel thrilled whenever looking at it.

The Tengu or “Heavenly Sentinel” is a type of legendary creature found in Japanese folk religion. They are considered a type of yōkai (supernatural beings) or Shinto kami (gods). The tengu was originally thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics. The earliest Tengu was pictured with beaks, but this feature has often been humanized as an unnaturally long nose, which today is widely considered the Tengo’s defining characteristic.  They are also thought to be parallel to the Garuda, a legendary bird or bird-like creature in Hindu, Buddhist mythology, and influenced by Sarutahiko Ōkami, a native Shinto deity.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Private Collection of Asian and Oceanic Art



A Superb Malekula Island Ceremonial Mask Vanuatu

This beautiful used ceremonial Mask was field collected in South West Malekula Island in 1986. Malekula is one of the islands that make up the country of Vanuatu formerly known pre-independence as The New Hebrides.

The man in the photo, Kaiar was the artist who made this amazing artwork.

The Mask is made from a bamboo frame and covered in a vegetable fibre paste that goes hard after mixing. The hanging part at the back is made of spider webs.  This can be worn as a mask as seen in the field photo or in a ceremonial display

In SW Malekula Island these masks and faces are known as “Temes Nevimbur” they are used during important ceremonies by members of a secret society, also called “Nevimbur”.  They are seen from behind the fence which is a sacred area.  Many of these ceremonies celebrate the attainment of higher status within the secret societies known as “grade taking ” or taking of a higher title.  Merit rather than birth determines the grade or rank of an individual within these societies. A man with strong determination can be elevated over a lifetime to the status of a living deity. Pigs are crucial to obtaining the higher status for the highest levels of the secret society, dozens of full circle tusked pigs are needed to be sacrificially killed on a single occasion to take the next level or grade within the society.

Malekula Island Artworks are one of my personal favourites’ out of all Oceanic Art and I was extremely lucky to have seen them in use in the village setting. The people I stayed with there were extremely warm and kind & generous.

On a custom-made stand for easy display.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Private Collection of Oceanic Art.


A Collection of Important Old Stone Axe Heads from Papua New Guinea

This collection of five old Stone Axe Heads was selected solely for the beautiful shapes and colours of the stone. All are old and could be even hundreds of years old.  These are five of my favourite stone axes collected over 40 years.  My field photo above that I took of Dani & Yali Men showing their sacred Je Stones after an important ceremony in 1985 (I still have a set of these Je Stones)

I know a little about the history of each one;

From left to right in the photo,

Large beautiful green colour, Western Highlands Province Papua New Guinea Size 38cm x 15cm

Wealth Axe, Massim Culture, Milne Bay Province Papua New Guinea Size 25.5cm x 13.5cm

Ancient Stone Axe, East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea Size 35cm x 9cm

A large Ceremonial Stone Axe from Kiwai Island but originally from the Torres Strait Island. Size 31cm x 15cm

A Large Stone Axe Western Highlands Province Papua New Guinea Size 33.5cm x 19cm

All are on high-quality custom-made stands.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Private Collection of Oceanic Art.


Ancestor Figure Murik Lakes East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea

This beautiful old Female Ancestor Figure is from the Murik Lakes area in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea.
Carved in the form of a strong young woman in full health, with a warm expression on her face. She is standing facing forward with her arms held to her sides with hands resting on her hips. Wearing a dog’s teeth necklace around her neck which an important traditional currency & bridal dowry in New Guinea. Both her ears & nose are all pierced, and once held fibre attachments and has a nice honey-colored patina from long handling.

In the Sepik River societies, each community had carved wood figures which were associated with specific ancestors, these were important ceremonial figures each figure had their own personal name.
Ancestor figures were an important part of a community’s spiritual wellbeing, they offered protection from malevolent forces and help to ensure fertility for gardens growing large yams and taro as food sources.

Provenance: This figure was collected during WW2
The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic Art

A Fine Old Sepik River Ceremonial Lime Container

This Superb Ceremonial Lime Container from the Iatmul People in the middle Sepik River area of the East Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea.

A ceremonial Lime Containers like this example are called “Bandi Na Iavo “in the Iatmul Language. The Iatmul people and most people in the Sepik River area chew betel nut from the Areca Palm. Betel is chewed with lime made from burnt and crushed seashells and mustard leaves (Piper sp). Chewing Betel nut is a mild stimulate such as smoking or coffee & people use it throughout their lifetime.

This type of finely carved Ceremonial Lime Container was presented to newly initiated boys by their maternal uncles to mark their newly achieved status as men. It was used to chew betel during important traditional ceremonies.

The finial is adorned with important clan ancestral totems as in this example being a long-necked bird like a cockerel that is standing on a crocodile head.  These clan totems are seen on other important ceremonial objects like sacred flutes, drums & other carvings.

The tops of these containers have a hole for the insertion of the lime spatula to get lime from the container and into one’s mouth to mix with the betel nut.   The Spatula that was used often has carved ridges all down their length & when used men can stick the spatula into the Lime Container make a loud scraping percussion noise that is thought to be the voices of ancestral spirits.

Sepik River artists have produced some of the most beautiful & imaginative artworks ever made by any culture. When you see these artworks well displayed in homes of collectors or in the vast space for Oceanic Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or at The Musee du Quai Branly in Paris they are outstanding.

For a similar Iatmul Ceremonial Lime Container with the same iconography see the Metropolitan Museum of Art, they date theirs as 19th to early 20th Century  https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/313645

Provenance: Collected during WW2 by returning servicemen in the 1940s. The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic Art

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


A Collection of Amulet Masks Sepik River Area East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea

This Collection of Amulet Masks are from the Sepik River area of the East Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea.  I have collected and saved these masks over the past 38 years of collecting Oceanic Art.  They are all different in styles for different areas of the Sepik River villages, each is unique & beautiful but together they are something special, together they become a ” family of small sculptures “. Most collectors know well about the magic of grouping small objects together and how wonderful they can look on a shelf or table. This collection has been on my bedroom bookshelf for many years, I always get great enjoyment from looking at them and showing them to a friend or another collector.

In the Sepik River area peoples ceremonial & spiritual life revolves around masks, usually, dance masks worn by a select person but also large masks for the gables or windows of the monumental ceremonial Haus Tambaran or Men’s Ceremonial House where all the important rituals & initiations take place and where scared objects like masks are stored and venerated.  Small masks like these are similar in the style or the larger dance masks and are used by men as a personal protection and magical purposes,  they are often kept in small woven bags and carried in a larger bush fibre string bag when out walking or hunting.  Every owner of a small mask would tell you a different story of their use & importance & how they are connected to the large dance masks kept in the village.  Small masks can also be tied onto other types of ceremonial objects.

When I was visiting New Guinea & West Papua 38 years ago many times I saw old men pull out small woven bags of magic implements & use them with Betel Nut to blow away storms or stay safe in long canoe trips.  I asked them about this & never got much of a reply except ” Old Man Magic “.

These masks collected over 38 years came from several collections & field collecting

The Todd Barlin Collection of  Sepik River Papua New Guinea Art




If you have a similar “object” for sale please contact me for the best price and honest advice by a Government approved valuer 

To see many more rare items and the finest masterpieces, please make an appointment with us to visit the gallery.

For all inquiries, please contact us.

Four Carved Burlwood Figures of Lohan China 19th Century

This four beautiful burlwood carved figures of the Buddhist Saint Lohan also known as Arhats. Lohans are followers of the Buddha who reached enlightenment but have not yet attained the higher state of nirvana. Lohan is the Chinese name, Arhat is the Sanskrit and Rakan the Japanese all for the same persons.  These were likely carved in the early to mid 19th century and the use of root wood or burlwood was very poupular in China during this time.

The Eighteen Arhats or Lohan are depicted in Mahayana Buddhism as the original followers of Gautama Buddha (arhat) who have followed the Noble Eightfold Path and attained the four stages of enlightenment. They have reached the state of Nirvana and are free of worldly cravings. They are charged to protect the Buddhist faith and to wait on earth for the coming of Maitreya, an enlightened Buddha prophesied to arrive on earth many millennia after Gautama Buddha’s death In China, the eighteen arhats are also a popular subject in Buddhist art,

Originally, the arhats were composed of only 10 disciples of Gautama Buddha, although the earliest Indian sutras indicate that only 4 of them, Pindola, Kundadhana, Panthaka and Nakula, were instructed to await the coming of Maitreya.

Later this number increased to sixteen to include patriarchs and other spiritual adepts. Teachings about the Arhats eventually made their way to China where they were called Lohan (羅漢, shortened from a-luo-han a Chinese transcription for Arhat),

A cult built around the Lohan’s as guardians of Buddhist faith gained momentum amongst Chinese Buddhists at the end of the ninth century for they had just been through a period great persecution under the reign of Emperor Tang Wuzong

The Qianlong Emperor was a great admirer of the Lohan’s and many images such as these were made for burlwood.

Provenance:  Old Collection UK. The Todd Barlin Collection of Asian Buddhist Art



If you have a similar “object” for sale please contact me for the best price and honest advice by a Government approved valuer 

To see many more rare items and the finest masterpieces, please make an appointment with us to visit the gallery.

For all inquiries, please contact us.

A Superb Maori Ceremonial Adze Toki Poutangata

This finely carved Maori Presentation Adze or toki poutangata  is attributed to the Maori Master Carver John Collins made about 30 years ago.  The photos of this beautiful artwork don’t do the carving justice. The carved figures on the top of the adze & the head on the butt of the adze are so well carved they have life & energy that you can feel and it is as fine as any 19th Century Maori Carving in my opinion. The Green Stone Adze Blade is equally fine, made from a very beautiful marbled green colour and the artist gave this stone a very refined shape.

According to the Te Papa Museum in Wellington New Zealand in reference to old toki poutangata or ceremonial adze, they are described as follows:

” A toki poutangata is a ceremonial adze worked from pounamu or greenstone that is usually lashed to a finely carved handle. Almost invariably carried by a person of mana, someone of high rank and with great leadership qualities, they were often adorned with the feathers of significant birds. Such birds included the kaka, kahu, and the kererū. Strips of dog hair were also added. Perhaps the nearest equivalent in European culture is the sceptre, used by kings as a symbol of rank and power and bearing the spiritual symbolism of the Christian cross.

Toki poutangata were used on ceremonial occasions, such as the felling of a great tree for a significant waka (canoe) or for the ridgepole of a whare nui or meeting house. The first chips cut from the tree were taken by the tohunga to a special place where karakia of thanksgiving were recited to the god of the forest, Tanemahuta in acknowledgement of the sacrifice of his offspring. The chips might also be returned ceremonially to the forest to nurture new growth.

It is believed that the toki poutangata was originally used for the ceremonial execution of captives. Upon the death of its owner, the special handle was buried with them while the pounamu blade remained with the tribe. Once it had been decided who would succeed the chief, another handle was fashioned and lashed to the adze.

H D Skinner recorded the work of Māori ethnologist Te Rangi Hiroa on the function of the toki poutangata. Te Rangi Hiroa maintained that this implement was never intended for the adzing of wood by craftsmen. “It formed an exclusive article in the property of a chiefly family, to be borne on ceremonial occasions, to accompany the gestures of the family orator, and to lie in state on the breast of the chiefly dead.” Buck told me that he knew of only one occasion on which a toki poutangata had been used actively, namely by Te Wherowhero when designating Te Atiawa captives to the oven after the fall of Pukerangiora pa. [an attack by Waikato on a Taranaki pa].

‘He suggested that the name of the artefact might be due to this specific function. He later withdrew this and suggested that the term toki poutangata meant “the adze that establishes man in authority”(1).

With this in mind, the symbols of rank between Māori and European culture that held sway at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi – the toki poutangata and the sceptre – are indeed strongly similar. Another mark of authority for the British were the seals of the realm. ”


(1) Skinner, H D. (1974). Comparatively speaking: Studies in Pacific Material ”

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic Art




If you have a similar “object” for sale please contact me for the best price and honest advice by a Government approved valuer 

To see many more rare items and the finest masterpieces, please make an appointment with us to visit the gallery.

For all inquiries, please contact us.