War Shield

Wogamush (Biaka) Village ?, Wogamush River, Upper Sepik River, PNG, Melanesia. Wood (cutout and carved from the gigantic buttress roots of rainforest Ficus trees), pigments and cane. 176,5 x 52 x cm. 19/20th century.

Provenance: Ex collection of a Dutch artist c. 1970’s.

A fine early war-shield with a remarkable and unusual decor. The outer dentate rim and the interlocking scrolls are typical of the local iconography, however the arrangement of the motifs inside this framework is quite different. The norm of one or several distinguishable faces is “exploded” here to form suggestions of disassembled mouths and eyes floating around one central stylized smiling face. The original woven cane strap handles are still present on the rear.