Male Figure (Aripa)

Date: 16th–19th century

Geography: Papua New Guinea, Middle Sepik, Korewori River region

Culture: Inyai-Ewa people

Medium: Wood, paint

Dimensions: H. 43 x W. 5 x D. 5 in. (109.2 x 12.7 x 12.7 cm)

Classification: Wood-Sculpture

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1967

Accession Number: 1978.412.1509


The most abundant Inyai-Ewa carvings are the one-legged male figures known as aripa. The aripa represented spirits that resided within the images and served as hunting helpers, aiding in the capture of game such as wild pigs and cassowaries (large ostrichlike birds).

In its striking, almost surrealistic conception of the human form, this figure is typical of aripa images. In the past, each Inyai-Ewa man had such a figure, whose spirit served to assist him on his forays into the rainforest in search of game. While its owner was alive, the figure was kept in the men's ceremonial house. After his death, the figure would be deposited in a rockshelter where, when conditions were right, it might survive for several centuries.