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Tapa Painting Lake Sentani West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia

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Collection No. TB-877
Size 140 x 65 cm
Tapa Painting Lake Sentani West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia
Tapa Painting Lake Sentani West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia

This finely painted Tapa Cloth painting is from Asei Village on Lake Sentani area on the North Coast of West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia.

In 1985 -1986 I spent several months visiting every village on Lake Sentani and other mainland villages close by. The people in the villages were always very kind, warm & generous during my visits and to my great surprise & delight some artists were still making high quality hand painted Tapa Cloth or Maro Smo.

Many of the design elements in these contemporary Tapa Cloths are very old traditional designs, but these also have been changed and added to by individual artistic creativity. One of the main Lake Sentani motifs Fouw, a interlocking spiral design which is said to represent eternity and is associated with power of Chief’s. The Fouw design is commonly used on many types of carved objects from the Lake Sentani area, including canoes, paddles, bowls and other items. Other common motifs are animals, birds and fish that are plentiful in their natural environment. There is also depictions powerful mythological spirits that inhabit the bush and the ocean.

The design on this Tapa is a repeating type of  Fouw  designs.

Lake Sentani art is very unique on the Island of New Guinea, their art was calm & serene and beautiful without the aggressive look common to the Sepik or Asmat areas.  I saw similarities between the styles of Lake Sentani and the Massim Cultures of Milne Bay Province in Papua New Guinea.   Lake Sentani has had a very long history of trading with people from SE Asia who came looking for Bird of Paradise feathers, these trade links were so old that there were Dongson era bronze age artefacts in archaeological sites & still in use in villages like ancient glass ornaments, bangles & beads & ancient bronze kettle drums and ceramics.

In 1929 Jacques Viot, the French surrealist author and art dealer made a trip to the area and collected a number of Tapa cloths that were later exhibited in Paris. These works of art had a great impact on the Paris art scene at that time. Many early 20th Century artists such as Picasso and Joan Miro were influenced by these Tapa paintings.

In Australia at The National Gallery of Australia we have one of the most significant Lake Sentani figures in their collection a double ancestor figure that once belonged to the famous British American Artist Sir Jacob Epstein. This superb figure is always a great pleasure to look at.

EXHIBITED: Tapa : Bark Cloth from The Pacific 1999 at The Campbelltown Town City Bicentennial Art Gallery Sydney Australia


Art of Northwest New Guinea by Suzzanne Greub 1992

Ancestors of the Lake : Art of Lake Sentani & Humboldt Bay New Guinea 1991  Edited by Virginia- Lee Webb



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