Large Sawos Male Ancestral Figure, East Sepik Province, Middle Sepik River, Papua New Guinea
height 77 1/2 (197cm)
Walter Randel, New York
Marcia and John Friede, New York
Private Collection, New York, acquired from the above circa 1975
"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 the present example)...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." (Metropolitan Museum of Art, WEB, nd, 2013)
According to Kaufmann (1983: p. 579) on the Iatmul and Sawos cultures, "No other New Guinea community has men's ceremonial houses which are so lavishly decorated with sculpted images. The building itself symbolizes the ancestors' protective mantle, which settled on the river in the form of a floating grass island, under which a crocodile--another embodiment of the ancestors--may lie in wait."
The present work is finely stone carved with extraordinary presence and aggressive power; light-brown patina.