Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Headdress (Kapurei [?])

late 19th–early 20th century
Papua New Guinea, New Britain, Gazelle Peninsula
Sulka people
Wood, paint
H. 43 1/2 x W. 10 1/4 x D. 8 3/4 in. (110.5 x 26 x 22.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Evelyn A. J. Hall, 1981
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
In their ceremonial arts, the Sulka people of northern New Britain consciously seek to achieve magnificence, striving to maximize the visual impact on the viewer. Brightly colored and ephemeral, Sulka ritual arts are created for one-time use in dances and ceremonies, during which their fleeting beauty allows the audience to briefly glimpse the divine. Afterward, the objects are destroyed.
This work is a headdress worn on top of the head like a helmet. It portrays a praying mantis (kovio), possibly a clan emblem. Although its exact use is uncertain, it was probably a kapurei, a conical headdress that formed the base for a large ceremonial dance wand (rei) as much as nine feet (3 meters) high that was attached to the undecorated projection at the top.
Hiltrup Mission Museum, Hiltrup, Germany; Evelyn A. J. Hall, New York, until 1981

Kaufmann, Christian. "Art and Artists in the Context of Kwoma Society." In Exploring the visual art of Oceania : Australia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia, edited by Sidney M. Mead. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1979.

Newton, Douglas, Julie Jones, Susan Mullin Vogel, and Anne-Louise Schaffer. Notable Acquisitions (Metropolitan Museum of Art) (1981–1982), pp. 65–68.

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, 90, 153-4.

Kjellgren, Eric. "The Pacific Resurfaces: New Galleries for Oceanic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Tribal Art (Winter 2007–2008), p. 100, 5.

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