A totemic figure from Papua New Guinea

03 July 2020

This anthropomorphic male figure made of polychrome wood comes from the Maprik District (Abelam Wosera people) in Papua New Guinea.

The association of anthropomorphic figures with a bird (or two birds) on the top of its head is quite a common feature throughout the area. The representation of a hornbill on the top of the head, although seemingly refering to a possible clan’s totemic bird (jaambu), seems more general.

Hornbills play an important part in announcing the incoming harvest of the yams. Associated with the sun, they also were a model for the flat carved figures presented on the front of the ceremonial house.

Maprik figure Papua New Guinea
Male anthropomorphic figure. Papua New Guinea. Maprik district.
19th century. Formerly Überseemuseum Collection, Bremen. Inv. 4080-1.
Photo Studio Ferrazzini Bouchet. MUSEE BARBIER-MUELLER.