Quantcast

Back to browse highlights

Ceremonial Board (Malu)

Date:
19th century
Geography:
Papua New Guinea, Middle Sepik River
Culture:
Sawos people
Medium:
Wood
Dimensions:
H. 75 x W. 24 x D. 6 1/2 in. (190.5 x 61 x 16.5 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1969
Accession Number:
1978.412.713
  • Description

    The openwork malu boards of the Sawos people of New Guinea are perhaps the ultimate expression of the curvilinear style that characterizes the carving of the Middle Sepik River. Although created by the Sawos, malu are traded to the neighboring Iatmul people who use them in the context of the initiation ceremonies that mark the transition of boys to manhood. If a boy dies during the initiation process, the malu are displayed to the village women to indicate that a death has occurred.
    The complex imagery of these objects incorporates bird, mammal, and insect forms, many of which represent totemic species. The central face of this object depicts the heart of the sago beetle, a large insect. Four hornbills, important totemic birds, are incorporated into the openwork carving. The pig, an animal of great social and ritual significance throughout New Guinea, appears at the base.

  • Provenance

    [Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1955]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1955, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1956–1969; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1969–1978

  • See also
    Who
    What
    Where
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
311159

Close