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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Oceanic Art : Sepik River Anthropomorphic Sculpture
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Sepik River Anthropomorphic Sculpture - PF.9871 (LSO)
Origin: Sepik River, Papua New Guinea
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD

Collection: Oceania

Location: United States
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This enigmatic object comes from one of the numerous tribes that occupy the Sepik River area of Papua New Guinea. Its exact purpose is uncertain. The design implies that is once held some other object, such as textile, and it may have been a handle, canoe prow or architectural fragment. The detailing is intriguing, with a plain horizontal bar, a crocodile (?) finial and a raised promontory supporting a small human figure. It appears to be male, seated on a small stool, with hunched shoulders and a small skullcap. He is holding something to his mouth, presumably a musical instrument of some sort.

The Sepik River area has a reasonable claim to be the most artistically prolific indigenous region in the Southern hemisphere, and certainly in the Antipodes. The economic wealth of the area, which is extremely fertile and productive, has given rise to numerous villages and indigenous cultures that all produce figures, masks and secular items. Human figures are considered to be particularly important to Sepik sculptors, often embodying ancestors, and could be used for magical purposes.

This is a striking and powerful piece of Oceanic art.

- (PF.9871 (LSO))


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