Wooden board with image of ancestor, made by Jarr tribe

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on Sepik River, Papua New Guinea

Postcard of Wooden board with image of ancestor, made by Jarr tribe.
© National Museums Scotland

Wooden board with image of ancestor, made by Jarr tribe

This wooden board (kwoi) bears a representation of an ancestor of the Jarr tribe in Papua New Guinea. It would have been hung up on show inside a family or tribal house, to protect people and remind them that the ancestors are all around.

The board is a single plank, shaped into a stylised human-cum-animal form representing an ancestor. Detail has been carved into the plank and highlighted with white, red and black paint - colours associated with the spirit world.

The ancestors are of key importance to the Jarr and many others in south-east Asia and the Pacific. The dead are believed to join them, and they are believed to influence the lives of the living. They require attention and care; they protect and advise.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-000-790-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  A.1951.367
Date: Early or mid 20th century
Dimensions: 35.50" H
What: Kwoi / tablet, ancestral
Subject: Magic and ceremonial
Where: Melanesia, New Guinea, Papuan Gulf, Purari Delta
Description: Carved wooden kwoi or ancestral tablet in the form of a man with forearms upraised and legs doubled up decorated with dentations and an eye motives in red and black on white: New Guinea, Papuan Gulf,
  • Specht, J. and Fields, J. . Frank Hurley in Papua: Photographs of the 1920-1923 Expeditions. Bathurst, Australia: Robert Brown and Associates, 1984, pp 178-9. 
  • University of California, Los Angeles Museum and Laboratories of Ethnic Arts and Technology . Art of New Guinea: Sepik, Maprik and Highlands. Los Angeles, UCLA, 1967. 
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