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Spirit Figure Abelam People East Sepik Papua New Guinea


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Collection No. A-1561
Size 78x31cm
Spirit Figure Abelam People East Sepik Papua New Guinea
Spirit Figure Abelam People East Sepik Papua New Guinea

This finely carved & painted Spirit Figure known as nggwalndu is from the Abelam people in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea.

The Abelam people of the Prince Alexander Mountains north of the Sepik River practice perhaps the longest and most spectacular initiation cycle of any New Guinea people. Beginning in childhood, each Abelam male must pass through eight separate initiation rites over the course of twenty to thirty years, before he is a fully initiated man. Each successive ritual requires both a physical ordeal and the viewing of increasingly elaborate displays of sacred objects in specially constructed chambers within the men’s ceremonial house. This process continues until the final rites, in which the initiate is shown the largest and most sacred of all displays—the brilliantly painted figures and other images portraying the powerful clan spirits called nggwalndu. The largest nggwalndu images are used during this final ritual. Although nggwalndu figures are impressive works of sculpture, to the Abelam, their power lies in the bright polychrome paints applied to their surfaces. For the Abelam, paint is a magical substance that endows the figures with supernatural power and beauty. In creating their displays, artists strive to achieve a visual magnificence that will overwhelm the viewer.  Dating from 1940-1950.

Exhibited: Oceanic Arts Pacifica: Artworks from the Todd Barlin Collection at The Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre 2014 Sydney Australia

Published :Oceanic Arts Pacifica: Artworks from the Todd Barlin Collection The Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre 2014 Sydney Page 85

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