Papua New Guinea, East Sepik Province, Korwewori River, Yimam people, early 20th century. A hand-carved wooden hook figure known as a yipwon, skillfully carved with opposed hooks surrounding a central ovoid element, all below a stylized profile face with a perforation through its nose presumably to suspend decorative ornaments, incised eyes, and nicely rendered pursed lips. The entire figure rises from a thick integral foot. Throughout Papua New Guinea, a number of cultures worked in what is known as the opposed-hooks style to adorn sacred figures like this example. Size: 7.875" W x 31.875" H (20 cm x 81 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art curatorial team explains the origin of the yipwon, "Local oral tradition describes the origin of these distinctive images. When the spirit of the Sun, who formerly inhabited the earth, was carving the first slit gong (a large musical instrument), the pieces of wood chipped from the carving came to life as spirits who lived with the Sun in the men's ceremonial house. One day these spirits killed one of the Sun's male relatives and drank his blood, after which they stretched themselves out against the wall of the house and turned back into wood. Angered by their act, the Sun ascended into the sky while the yipwon remained on earth as patron spirits of warfare and hunting. "
See similar but larger example in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art - accession number 1978.412.854 - According to the curatorial description, "Large yipwon images such as this one were owned collectively by clans, while smaller portable examples were individually owned and served as amulets, carried in net bags by their owners to bring success in hunting and battle."
Provenance: private Orange, California, USA collection, acquired in the 1930s
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Expected surface wear commensurate with age. Minute loss to tip of lowest hook. Otherwise intact. Wood has developed a wonderful patina and areas of earthen encrustations.