Ancestor/spirit figure

Description:
A carving of a cassowary, standing erect with an anthropoid head mounted on the plinth behind the bird's feet. On the back there are zig-zag carvings, painted white on black, indicating wings. The eyes are painted white and there are traces of white pigment on the body and the legs. There are five projections down the back which are drilled and fitted with knotted fibre.


Context:
The cassowary bird is often taken as an ancestral spirit. It features in several creation myths and is very important in Sepik culture. In mythical times there were no divisions between animals, plants, birds, and humans, so there is no surprise at having a bird as an ancestor. The figure was probably made for the tourist market and would have been sold with other figures depicting spirit figures of various types.