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Spirit Figure, Abelam People East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea


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Collection No. A-1797
Size Height 135cm
Spirit Figure, Abelam People East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
Spirit Figure, Abelam People East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
Spirit Figure, Abelam People East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
Spirit Figure, Abelam People East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea

This Spirit Figure is made by the Abelam People of the East Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea. This very finely carved & ochre  painted Spirit Figure in the form of a anthropomorphic Bird Man a powerful spirit called Ngwalndu which are important clan spirits. Representations of them are prominently featured in men’s ceremonial houses, or spirit houses which are the place of important communal rituals and ceremonies . In addition to promoting fertility and health, the Ngwalndu are also responsible for providing yams, a crop that is not just a favourite food but of great spiritual significance for the community. Long yam cultivation, carried out exclusively by men, is the focus of ritual life for the Abelam. So close is the spiritual connection between the ritually attended yams and the grower and his clan that the most prized yams, the largest of the long yams, are named after the grower’s Ngwalndu. In the ceremonial house, Ngwalndu figures preside over initiation ceremonies that reveal the secrets of long yam cultivation and other male powers embedded in the lore of each clan.  The ochre painting in black and white, yellow and red are pigments thought to have magical qualities: red is the most powerful and refers to the substances used for sorcery and long yams.

Collected in the 1950’s – 1960’s.

Exhibited in the exhibition: Oceanic Arts Pacifica at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre in Sydney Australia in 2014

Published in the Exhibition Catalogue for Oceanic Arts Pacifica 2014 Page 84

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