Tag Archives: Papua New Guinea arts

Papua New Guinea exotic arts


Sculptures, pottery and arts of PNG



Ancient pre contact, wood carved Janus ancestral figure from central Abelam area, Kalabu Village


As with most primitive traditional aesthetics, the art of Papua New Guinea is closely connected to their culture. Due to the diversity of languages (more then 700) and regions in PNG , the different tribes all have uniquely styled, identifiable art. Their artifacts being distinguished by features such as clan totems, clan symbols, deities, animals and ancestor spirits. The colours and themes depend on the individual artist, the availability of materials, local traditions as well as the unique styles of the different villages. They often refer directly or indirectly to ancestor or clan spirits and totems such as the cassowary (muruk), pig (pik), crocodile (pukpuk), eagle (taragau), or a water and bush bird (saun).

Most of the handmade tribal art takes the form of carvings, statues, masks, costumes and adornments used in religious ceremonies, or more functional objects such as bowls, pottery, canoes, baskets, weapons and bilums (string bags). Shields have a performance, decorative and spiritual role which is of more importance then their defensive purposes. Musical instruments like kudus, flutes and mouth organs, are common in the Highlands, while the Trobriand Islanders are famous for their elaborate carvings, including stylised figures, carved ebony walking sticks and fish bowls inlaid with mother-of-pearl. In northern New Ireland, a feature of the Malangan culture are the figurines carved for village burial ceremonies, while in Gulf Province, carved spirit boards are believed to contain the spirits of great heroes and warriors.
The people in the villages along the Sepik River (the longest in PNG) and its tributaries are the most active carvers in New Guinea and are renown for their art and craftsmanship. Both the men and women of the Sepik tribes use expressionistic styles to convert figures of spirits and dreams into carvings and other crafts. Storyboards are used to illustrate village history, their ornate relief carvings capturing tales of village life that were once painted on bark.



Angoram ancestor figure mask, Sepik River


With most of the tribal art of Oceania, the carvings are created to be vehicles of their spirits. They are intended both to help the people meet the challenges of everyday life and to ward off the influences of unfriendly spirits. Decoration using undulating, curvilinear lines is also common along with vivid colours made from natural pigments (limes and ochres) that result in striking imagery. Few masks are worn directly over the face, which explains the lack of holes for eyes. Some are fastened onto a large cone-shaped wicker framework for a dance costume called a tumbuan. Others are displayed outside the men’s house or inside the spirit houses or other dwellings to ward of evil spirits or to evoke the power of ancestors at the specific location.
The village spirit houses, known as Haus Tambaran’s, are where a fantastic array of carvings including masks, statues and figures are kept, and traditionally are only accessible to the local warriors. On an annual or regular basis, community ‘Sing Sings’ occur, which are a gathering where different tribes meet to display their unique identity through elaborate costumes, dance and music. New tribes and art are still being discovered in the remote parts of New Guinea and due to its diversity, I’m looking forward to seeing what appears.



 Asmat Shield, Unir (Lorenz) River, Irian Jaya





‘Damarau’ clay pottery made by the women in Aibom Village on the Sepik River

Papua New Guinea




Polished stone wedding gift – Trobriand Islands

The islands are coral atolls, and anything of stone is considered rare and valuable.
Photo Eric Lafforgue.





Unglazed earthenware cooking pot (gun), Bosman peoples, Ramu River

Madang Province, Papua New Guinea




Oceania---Papua-New-Guinea-Mask Art

Papua New Guinea — Oceania Mask Art




Angoram carved mask – Sepik River



Red, black and orange Dusky Lory Parrot-(Pseudeos-furcata)-endemic-to-Indonesia-and-Papua-New-Guinea


Dusky Lory Parrot, New Guinea




Clay pot for smoking fish – Keram River location

Papua New Guinea



Clay pottery Damarau-or-Sago-Storage-Vessel Papua New Guinea

 Damarau or Sago Storage Vessel





Carved clay ‘Kamana’ (cooking vessel) – Sawos people

Papua New Guinea





Figural Head Dress – New Britain, Sulka People

circa 1880, Papua New Guinea





Dance-of-the-crocodile - Crocodile cult dancers parading with a -crocodile sculpture Yentchen - Sepik

Crocodile cult dancers – Yentchen  Sepik






Damarau sago strorage vessel





Hulis tribe girls at Mount Hagen festival ‘sing sing’




Iatmul hook – Sepik River, PNG

Elaborate hooks are often described by anthropologists and collectors as cult hooks, food hooks or suspension hooks. They are carved and decorated to accommodate benevolent spirits and to preserve food. Suspending food from the hook discourages vermin, and the spirit thought to inhabit the hook is believed to retard spoilage.





Geometrically carved clay pot – Madang Province, PNG



Kanganaman-Village painted mask ---East-Sepik-Province---Papua-New-Guinea-


Kanganaman Village wood carved statue—East Sepik Province—Papua New Guinea





Hand painted mask – Kanganaman Village

East Sepik Province – Papua New Guinea

Flickr – Rita Willaert




Kwams–eating bowl with figural relief art – Naimi, Papua New Guinea

Flickr–Ant Ware




Large wood carved ancestor-Cult Hook

Wood carved hook – New Guinea



Large-Dream-Face-Mask Papua New Guinea

Dream Face Mask, Papua New Guinea





Anthropomorphic Figure, Melanesia, Urama and Era River groups, Papua New Guinea

Musée Barbier-Mueller




Ceramic Sago Pot – Iatmul peoples

Sepik River



Lime-Pot---Trobriand-Islands Decorated-spherical-gourd,-160-mm-high

Decorated gourd Lime Pot

Trobriand Islands




Madang eum-The-Chief's-Throne

Hand carved chief’s throne – Madang, PNG



Mary-Cotterman-flickr clay- relief pottery New Guinea

Relief decoration cooking pot – PNG

Mary Cotterman – flickr



Masked-dancers-in-front-of-the-men’s-longhouse-at-Tovei-village-Urama-Island-1921-Margaret-Whitlam-Gallery-Sydney photo Frank Hurley

Masked dancers in front of the men’s longhouse at Tovei village

Frank Hurley, 1921,  Australian Museum.





Red Mask

Murik Watam, PNG, Sepik Province

The Barbier Mueller Museum





Abelam clay pot with spirit-face mid-20th century

Michael Hamson Oceanic Art



Michael-Hamson-Oceanic-Art--Madang-province-clay-pot-20th-century with pointed base

Madang province clay pot

20th century





‘Aripa’ – Hunter’s helper figure

Korewori Caves region, PNG

National Gallery Australia




Orator stool

Orator stools are carved wooden artefacts, unique to PNG. They are symbolic statues of an ancestral or spirit figure who is sitting on this stool. The figure represents an ethereal convenor or “chairman” of meetings in Sepik men’s houses. During meetings and gatherings, speakers tap or slap the orator statue to give authority to their words. This orator stool is carved out of a single piece of timber and is rich in detail. The main ancestor figure has big powerful savi eyes and sticks its tongue out to ward off evil spirits.




Michael-Hamson-Oceanic-Art---Nagum-Boiken-clay- pot-with face 20th-century

Nagum Boiken clay pot

20th century




New-Guinea-Mask carving

Wall art tribal mask – PNG




Three New-Guinea-tribal masks

Tribal masks in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea





Carved canoe splashboard, Trobriand Islands, PNG





Fish smoking clay pot, Dimeri Village

Lower Sepik River, New Guinea,





Female spirit figure sculpture





Yam Spirit pottery head- Washuk Region

Papua New Guinea




New Guinea natives in full costume---Ambua-Lodge

Huli wigmen





Wood carved female statue –  Melpa tribe

Rondon Ridge, PNG





Huli Wigmen in tribal costumes designed to resemble the Raggiana Bird of Paradise





Tribal masks – Palambei Village -East Sepik Province

Papua New Guinea




Bowl with incised decoration – Papua New Guinea



Papua-New-Guinea---clay-pot with geometric face motif

Incised decorative face pot – PNG





 Women dancing in the Purari Delta,Gulf of Papua

Photographed by Rev Harry Moore Dauncey, Late 19th Century

 British Museum



pole-carving-New-Guinea central roof support in the Spirit House of Kanganaman, Sepik River

A central roof support in the Spirit House of Kanganaman,
Sepik River, Papua New Guinea. The carving represents an ancestor spirit.





Sepik River mask

Rita Willaert





Pearl shell inlay altar cross






Haus tambarans facade




Spirit Board, Gope Ethnic District

Papua New Guinea



London wall mural – Indigenous Person of Papua New Guinea

Dale Grimshaw




Tribal feast Bowl –  Tami Islands

Huon Gulf, Papua New Guinea – length 22 inches





Polychrome terracotta bowl underside – Sawos people, East Sepik Province




Malagan ceremonial mask, Lissenung Island, New Ireland - photo by Alison Wright

Malagan ceremonial mask, Lissenung Island, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea,

Photo – Alison Wright




Lou Island tribal mask –  Admiralty Islands, PNG




Trobriand Island dance shield kai-diba






Raggiana Bird-of-paradise, (Paradisaea raggiana) is the national bird of Papua New Guinea

photo: Al Dayan on Artflakes



Carved statue - Yamok---Tambaran---Spirithouse

Wood carved statue – Tambaran Spirithouse

Yamok Village, East Sepik Province

by Rita Willaert






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