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Yina Figure Waskuk Area Upper Sepik River Papua New Guinea

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Collection No. TB-667
Size Height 37cm
Yina Figure Waskuk Area Upper Sepik River Papua New Guinea
Yina Figure Waskuk Area Upper Sepik River Papua New Guinea

This beautiful small scale Yina Figure from the Kwoma People in the Waskuk Area on the Upper Sepik River area of Papua New Guinea.

Yina  is one of three distinct ceremonies held annually in the villages of the Kwoma, Nukuma and Mayo speakers of the Upper Sepik River, in a region generally referred to as the Waskuk Hills. These ceremonies are associated with fertility and the harvesting of yams and the spiritual well being of communities.

There are two other Yam Harvest Ceremonies that are associated with a distinctive from of sculpture, Minja & Nogkwi , which is also called by the same name.

This small scale Yina figure is unusual for the size but it definitely a old and used ceremonially and probably kept for the personal protection of an older man.

Ritual leaders organise the Yina ceremony at yam harvest time. The next two ceremonies featuring their own sculpted images of Mindja and Nokwi and must also be performed before the full harvest.  Older Yina Figures are hidden in garden huts, away from the village. They have acquired power over time and through use. New carvings are required from time to time; power is not inherent, but develops in the process of carving and painting.

For the annual ceremony both old and new are freshly painted. They are firstly covered in black paint and left to dry. Only on the final day before the ceremony are the other colours ; red, yellow and white added.  After colour is applied the remaining black is covered with a sap from the shogwiyaw tree, making the surface look strong and lustrous.

The ceremony takes place inside the men’s Ceremonial house (korob) A platform is built, and while one major Yina figure is displayed as a focus, many lesser Yina’s, other associated figures and pottery heads may be used. The pottery heads are particularly beautiful. The Yina is tied by the shaft to poles of the platform, and further decorated with shell wealth items, a ‘beard’ made of feather down, pig’s tusks and sometimes a headdress.

Slit gong drums are played and songs of myth relating to the yam harvest are sung. At the finish of the ceremony the Yina is stripped of its decorations, wrapped tightly in sheaths from the black palm, and returned to the garden hut.  The Yina spirit gives its owner continuing support throughout the year in hunting, fighting and sexual prowess.

Provenance: Leo Fleischmann Collection (c.1930 – 1993)  Sydney Australia. Leo ran the famous Galleires Primitif in Sydney from 1967 – 1993 )  He was a true expert on Oceanic Art and had a huge reference library to use  for research.  His collection was legendary and after his death his old friend / boss quietly sold off objects over the next 20 years. There was one Sotheby’s sale of his Club collection in Sydney.



Bowden, Ross Yena: Art and Ceremony In a Sepik Society Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford 1983
Newton, Douglas Crocodile & Cassowary Museum of Primitive Art, NY.
Wardwell, Allen Island Ancestors Oceanic Art form the Masco Collection University of Washington Press   1994


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