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Canoe

Artist:
Chief Chinasapitch
Date:
1961
Geography:
Indonesia, Papua Province (Irian Jaya), Per village, Asewetsj and Siretsj Rivers region
Culture:
Asmat
Medium:
Wood, paint, sago palm leaves
Dimensions:
H. 34 x W. 26 1/2 x L. 588 in. (86.4 x 67.3 x 1493.5 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection; Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller and Mrs. Mary C. Rockefeller, 1965
Accession Number:
1978.412.1134
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
The homeland of the Asmat people of southwest New Guinea consists mainly of densely forested swamps drained by numerous large and small rivers. Canoes are essential to life in the Asmat region, providing the only means of transportation for fishing and food-gathering expeditions, visiting neighboring communities, and, in the past, for embarking on headhunting raids. When paddling the canoes, the paddlers stand erect, skillfully maintaining their balance as they dip the blades in
the water.
All large Asmat canoes have carved prows, and those of large communal
canoes, such as the present one, are especially ornate, adorned with images
of ancestors and headhunting symbols. Nearly fifty feet long and capable of
carrying twenty people, this canoe was carved by the master woodcarver Chinasapitch of Per village, assisted by other men. The seated figure on the prow
depicts his deceased sister Banditis, while the reclining figure represents a young man who had recently been killed by members of an enemy village.
Michael C. Rockefeller Expedition, collected 1961; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1961–1965; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1965–1978

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