Inside each of the haus tambarans, or men’s houses, in the Middle Sepik were a variety of carved figures and ceremonial stools representing the various clans whose members gathered within them. This carved figure reminded men of a clan myth about a celebrated cultural hero, who was an ancestor to men from its Middle Sepik clan. Carved from a local hardwood, this figure stood in a prominent place in the haus tambaran, which consisted of a large house 100 feet or more in length with spaces for each clan along the left and right. As in other parts of New Guinea, men believed that family or clan spirits inhabited such carvings. Periodically, the men might give offerings of food to the spirit in the figure, hoping to cultivate the spirit’s support for the man and his family.
From the 2019 exhibition Melanesian Art: The Sepik River and Abelam Hill Country, curated by Robert Welsch, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Franklin Pierce University
Art and Culture in New Guinea Societies: The Abelam and their Neighbors, Harrington Gallery Teaching Exhibition, Anthropology 47, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, March 28-April 30, 2000.
Melanesian Art: The Sepik River and Abelam Hill Country, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26-December 8, 2019.
Recontextualizing 'Primitive' Art: Melanesian and African Works, An Exhibition in Process, Harrington Gallery Teaching Exhibition, Anthropology 72, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, April 14-May 25, 1997.
The Art of Papua New Guinea: Selections from the Harry A. Franklin Family Collection, Alvin P. Gutman Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, November 1, 1993-February 13, 1995.
Harry A. Franklin, Los Angeles, California 1950; Harry A. Franklin Family, Los Angeles, California, 1983; lent to present collection, 1990; partial purchase, partial gift to present collection, 2019.
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