Figure with gra or garra hooks

Reference : 2258

Carved wood with opposing hooks
on a long, slender backbone
Ochre pigments with lime stipple decoration
Height: 1.28 m
Presumed period: first half of the 20th century
Bahinemo population
Nigiru Village, Hunstein Mountains
Papua New Guinea

Source :
– Collected in situ by Wayne Heathcote
– Douglas Newton1, New York, acquired from previous owner
– Joel Cooner, Dallas, USA
– James Barzyk, Naperville, USA
– Sotheby’s New York May 7, 2016 lot 6

Museum of Primitive Art, New York.February-May 1969
Ritual art of the Upper Sepik River, New Guinea.

– Douglas Newton, Crocodile and cassowary, Religious Art of the Upper Sepik River,
New Guinea. Museum of Primitive Art, 1971, p. 26, reproduced no. 26
– Michael Hamson, Oceanic Art. Paris 2017. Reproduced on page 30

According to Anthony Meyer(2), “The Hunstein Mountains, home to the Bahinemo people, mark the south-western border of the Middle Sepik. Bahinemo masks are interesting in that they are not intended to be worn.”
And Meyer continues: “All garra, or sacred objects of the Bahinemo, are said to have been originally created by Wimogu and Igoshua, a mythical couple who are said to still live on a small island at the mouth of the Avril River.[…] The use of crochet as a symbolic and decorative element in the art of New Guinea comes from an archaic source, and is probably linked to the Bronze Age cultures of Southeast Asia and the Indonesian islands from which the first migrations came. Throughout Southeast Asia, the Great Hornbill (Rhyticeros) is associated with the soul, the ancestor and the spirit world. Its large, curved beak is often depicted on ancestor figures and as a war and headhunting accessory. On the garra masks produced by the Bahinemo people, the outermost hooks are often carved as complete and instantly recognizable hornbill heads.”
At the end of the 1930s, British sculptor Henry Moore was preoccupied with pointed forms, as evidenced by his preparatory drawings of the time and some of his sculptures. Wilkinson(4) notes that “given Moore’s well-documented interest in the formal qualities of Oceanic sculpture, for his famous Three Points bronze of 1939-1940, a […] plausible source can be found in tribal art.” Moore(5) himself wrote in 1941 of
“sculptures from New Guinea, with elongated spider-like extensions and bird’s beak elongations […]”
1- Douglas Newton (1920-2001) joined New York’s Museum of Primitive Art in 1960 as assistant curator. Deputy Director in 1974, he became Chief Curator of the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the America after the transfer of the collections to M.E.T. He made five trips to Papua New Guinea between 1964 and 1973.
2- Meyer. 1995, vol.1, pp. 265-267.
3- Friede. 2005, vol. 2, p.129
4- Rubin. 1984, p.607
5- Rubin. Op. cit, p.604

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