Wooden sculpture, probabely depicting a spirit or an ancestor


Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen

Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen

This exceptionally fine sculpture arrived in the Netherlands in pristine condition. Presumably, it had not been in place for long when it was acquired by members of the North New Guinea expedition in 1903. For many years, this ancestor figure was not on display at the Tropenmuseum, having been leant to Belgium’s Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, where it formed part of a presentation comparing African cultures with those of the rest of the world. It has since been returned to Amsterdam.

Wichmann expedition
The 1903 North New Guinea expedition was a Dutch project designed to explore the uncharted northern coast of Netherlands New Guinea and to examine prospects for mining coal. It was led by Arthur Wichmann, a German geologist, which is why it is known as the Wichmann expedition. The voyage from Cenderawasih Bay (formerly Geelvink Bay) in the northeast to the straight border that splits the island from north to south took over six months. Much is known about the expedition, because the participants wrote copiously about the results. In addition to their own written reports, expedition members also brought many items back to the Netherlands, including this figure. These items eventually found their way into the Tropenmuseum collection and that of the Leiden Museum of Ethnology.

Sentani Lake
Sentani Lake is a freshwater lake in northern New Guinea. It lies a few kilometres from the Humboldt Bay coast. A unique culture has developed in the villages around the lake, where several thousand people live. Many remarkable objects from this area can be seen at the Tropenmuseum. Famous examples include bark cloths (maros) and decorated dishes.

circa 56 x 10cm (22 1/16 x 3 15/16in.)

Source: collectie.tropenmuseum.nl

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  • Title: Wooden sculpture, probabely depicting a spirit or an ancestor
  • Date: 1/1903
  • Location: Sentani lake