The peoples of the New Guinea Highlands primarily confine their artistic output to elaborate forms of personal ornamentation. Sculpture among Highland peoples is rare. In some areas of the Eastern Highlands, however, artists produced thin carved boards of various types, often in openwork and always painted with highly stylized designs. These were displayed in great numbers at large-scale ceremonies during which quantities of pigs were sacrificed to feed ancestral spirits and promote fertility. Anthropomorphic boards such as this one embody symbols of the sun (the round head) and moon (the diamond-shaped body). In this example one can trace an ambiguous image, which can be seen either as a figure with hands touching the head and the legs drawn up, or as a standing figure. Carved in the early 1950s, this board is partly decorated with imported Western pigments.
A tribal chieftain, until 1960; Dadi Wurz, Switzerland, 1952–1960; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1960, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1960–1969; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1969–1978
Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 191.
Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, 16, 47-50.
Kjellgren, Eric. "The Pacific Resurfaces: New Galleries for Oceanic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Tribal Art (Winter 2007–2008), 102, 7.
Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 48–49.