Life-Size Sawos Ancestor Figure – Early 20th Century, Papua New Guinea – Ex Allan Stone Collection
1st half 20th c.
Carved wood, paint, woven fiber
Without stand: 94 1/2″ x 17″ x 9″
Provenance: Allan Stone Collection, New York
The Sawos people of the Middle Sepik River region of New Guinea are divided into a number of clans, each of which is associated with specific ancestors and totemic species. These ancestral and totemic beings are represented by wooden figures kept in the men’s ceremonial houses. Wooden figures such as this represent a category of powerful and dangerous ancestral beings called wan or waken and each figure owned by a specific clan is named for an important clan ancestor. Offerings of food and betel-nut were made to these figures before embarking on hunting or warfaring expeditions. They are amongst the greatest known works of Oceanic art. This is a Yatami clan representation of Mian Gandu, the founding ancestor.
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, pp. 74Â–75Meyer, Anthony. Oceanic Art. Konemann,1995, pp. 250 and 252, pl. 280 Wardwell, Allen. Island Ancestors: Oceanic Art from the Masco Collection. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994