Monumental Kwoma Spirit Figure, Urumbanj Village, Washkuk Hills, Papua New Guinea

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Lot 57
Monumental Kwoma Spirit Figure, Urumbanj Village, Washkuk Hills, Papua New Guinea

Sold for US$ 28,750 inc. premium
Monumental Kwoma Spirit Figure, Urumbanj Village, Washkuk Hills, Papua New Guinea
mindja
Wood, pigments
height 90in (229cm)

Carved in light wood of grandiose scale, overall lozenge form with concave back, the domed head with overreaching brow angling downwards above the tubular, pierced eyes and elongated arching nose which reconnects at the midsection, a trail of tear-like raised elements running down the edges and leading to pierced holes on each side of the nose beside the diminutive, pierced mouth, two additional arching decorative elements below the mouth and terminating at the chin; fine, light brown patina with significant weathering and encrustations overall.

PROVENANCE
Phillip Goldman, field collected in the 1950s
Marcia and John Friede Collection, Rye, New York

According to Newton, "Unlike the yina heads, which were all individual and could vary in number, the carvings for Mindja-ma were always made and shown in pairs only. They were large, flat slabs, elongated diamonds in outline, the smaller angle at the top being carved as a human face with pierce eyes and mouth...

...As is true of the yina, the minja of the Kwoma are much larger than those of the Nukuma; some examples may be as much as about ten feet long. Moreover, each Kwoma clan had a pair, shown in rotation from year to year, and those of the different clans in different villages showed striking variations in type (168-174)...

...The term minja is applied to multiple-pronged objects: for instance three-pronged bird arrow and combs (masa[ga]-mindja, "headpoints"). In the context of the carvings, then, it might refer to the weapons of the spirits depict; alternatively to the comb, which is part of the insignia of Mindja-ma initiates.

The minja carvings themselves represent water-spirits living in lakes, which are sometimes seen just under the surface of the water. However they seem also to be related to the sky: one Täk minja was carved after a vision seen by a man in a thunder-cloud when he was at a lake, and a bark-painting design showing two forms very similar to mindja is described, at Tongwindjam, as showing a sky-spirit called Mawai (175)". (Newton: 1971, pp 86-87)

Cf. (ibid.) Figure 174, for an illustration by Newton of this minja.
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