Lot 116
  • 116

Inyai-Ewa Spirit Figure, Karawari River, Middle Sepik, Papua New Guinea

30,000 - 50,000 USD
62,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • wood


Galerie Lemaire, Amsterdam
Christie's, New York, November 16, 1995, lot 11
Lewis Wara Gallery, Seattle
American Private Collection, acquired from the above in 2002

Catalogue Note

Inyai-Ewa carvings from the rainforest of the Upper Karawari River region in northern Papua New Guinea took the Western art world by surprise following their discovery in remote caves along the banks of the Karawari River in the 1960s. Kept protected from moisture in rock shelters, these carvings were spared from rot and are of considerable antiquity. Large-scale male and female figures, although distinctly different in design, are both known as aripa and form the most significant body of Inyai-Ewa art.

Regarding the male figures Kjellgren notes: "In the past each man owned an aripa, which was kept, together with those of other hunters, in the men’s ceremonial house (koa). Representing potent spirits whose souls (tite) resided within the images, the aripa served as ‘hunting helpers’ [...] At death […] the image, accompanied by the bones and personal effects of the deceased, was taken to a rock shelter where it was placed alongside the aripa of other departed hunters and other sacred carvings. Serving as temporary campsites and places of remembrance, these rock-shelters were open to the entire community and the once-secret aripa images were visible to all." (Kjellgren, Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007, p. 57).