An image of Male and female ancestor figures

Asmat people

(Western New Guinea  – )

Male and female ancestor figures

Location
Photography gallery
Further information

According to Asmat legend, wooden statues were first carved by Fumeripitsj who, by beating a drum, gave them life, thereby creating the Asmat people. As the statues were animated, their elbows and knees separated and they began dancing. In ceremonies today, including the consecration of new men’s houses, or 'jeu', men dance with their elbows against their knees, re-enacting the Fumeripitsj story and the transformation from wood to flesh. The stance is also reminiscent of the praying mantis, a symbol of head-hunting among the Asmat.

Wooden figure sculptures such as this would often be named after ancestors. They are created by master woodcarvers, or 'wowipitsj', who are socially and politically influential.

[entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 5]

Place of origin
Pomatsj River, West Papua, Indonesia
Cultural origin
Asmat people
Year
mid 20th century
Media
Sculpture
Medium
wood
Dimensions
131.0 x 41.0 x 39.0 cm
Credit
Purchased 1976
Accession number
167.1976