Double Fertility Figures – Bapandu Village

SKU: OA-205.1027 Category:

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Medium: Wood, shell, human hair, aged patina with exceptional fine painted motif of mustard, red, white, and black pigments
Dimensions: H. 49.75 x W. 10
Origin: Bapandu Village, Wosera District, Abelam people, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea (Collected 1932)
Provenance: James Pongrass Collection, Linda Ridgeway Cunningham Collection 1975
Hurst, Art ad Artifacts of Melanesia 1990:51
Exhibited: Pelham von Stoffler Gallery, Houston, 1976, Hurst Gallery,Cambridge, Mass 1990, Private Museum, Xiamen, China 2011, Katy Contemporary Art Museum, Katy, Texas, Vertical Sculpture 2014, University of Houston Community college 2015

A very fine Abelam peoples, Wosera District, double figure carved a flat panel with two figures. The flat base with two figures, one male and the other female rising from the panel and carved in relief, each with ehongatedneck and spherical head with slit open mouth beneath a liner nose and framed braised oval eyes and pierced ears high on the head, and each surmounted by a standing bird (hornbill) with forward arching beak; aged patina with exceptionally fine painted motif of mustard, red, white and black pigments. (Ref. Sotheby's 1998: #61)

Famed for their rich paintings and sculptural traditions, the Abelam are one of the most numeriousand widespread groups in the Sepik area. They inhabit an area of floodplains and hills which extends from the Sepik in the south to the foothills of the Prince Alexander Mountains in the north. Although there are many commonalities, different art styles can be recognized throughout the Abelam region. In the southern Abelam region of Wosera, carvings tend to be narrow and have strong vertical orientation, like this piece. Wosera artworks tend to be more sculptural than those of the northern Abelam, and they depend less on painted surfaces than on plastic form for expressive effect.

Sculptures such as this usually formed part of the group of carvings which are part of the initiation rites known as ULKE or KUTAGWA, according to the region (Schmid 1985:195). During the initiation, artists arrange elaborate compositions of carved, painted, or plaited figures, decorated with shell rings, feathers, flowers, and leaves, in the ceremonial house. No explanation is given to the initiates, for the aim of these rituals is to show them the secrets rather than to verbalize a meaning. (Schaublin 1991:6