Ancestor/ Spirit Boards from Papua New Guinea

The faces of male figures and of ancestor/ spirit boards in mask form often have extended and sharply pointed noses, to emphasize masculinity. The ritual objects of the Papuan Gulf region consist mainly of two-dimensional ancestor/ spirit boards, the ones represented in the handling collection are in the form of masks. Large numbers of oblong spirit boards are made, often from the timber of old canoes, in broadly three sizes of which the largest are owned by the clan. Smaller, named boards stand at the entrances to the men’s huge longhouses and decorate the interiors. The smallest, unnamed boards, are kept by uninitiated men in their sleeping quarters to make them strong. There is an emphasis on the mouth and the eyes. The pigments used in the decoration of the boards and other ritual objects are ochre for pink, clays for yellow and red, soapstone for grey, powdered lime for white and charcoal for black.

 

Object number: 40071