Along the central coast within the larger Asmat region in southwest New Guinea, the deep narrow bowls called jifoi
were created specifically for mixing red paint. Carved as miniature versions of the large canoes that, in former times, returned from raids stained with the blood of slain enemies, the form of jifoi
emphasizes the symbolic identification of red paint with blood in Asmat art. In creating this example, the artist, Ndanim, whose photograph
is included in the exhibition, chose to enlarge the "prow" of the canoe to emphasize the sculptural qualities of the human figure.
A defining dimension of the Asmat collection assembled by Michael Rockefeller in New Guinea is the great number of works for which the artists' identities are known. In his initial collecting, Michael Rockefeller worked with Dutch anthropologist Adrian Gerbrands, whose groundbreaking study of the individual styles of Asmat master carvers helped overturn previous misconceptions of Oceanic artists as anonymous exponents of unvarying collective art traditions. Whenever possible, Michael Rockefeller recorded the name of, and occasionally photographed, the artist who created individual works he acquired.