Probably Era River, Gulf of Papua, Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea
Height: 21 ¾ in (55.3 cm)
Harry A. Franklin, Beverly Hills, acquired by 1963
George R. Ellis, Oceanic Art: A Celebration of Form, San Diego, 2009, p. 40, cat. no. 18
Salt Lake Art Center, New Guinea Primitive Art: The Harry Franklin Collection, 1963
San Diego Museum of Art, Oceanic Art: A Celebration of Form, January 31, 2009 - January 3, 2010
Spirit boards were not simply static representations of spirits, but were believed to be inhabited by them as well. The carvers of these pieces communicated movement in a variety of ways. In particular, Elema carvers used special techniques to evoke movement and vibrancy. This spirit board is an excellent example of their skill. Here, the left kneecap appears higher than the right, which is meant to represent motion (Welsch, Webb, and Haraha, Coaxing the Spirits to Dance: Art and Society in the Papuan Gulf of New Guinea, Hanover, 2006, p. 13). Similarly, one elbow is slightly raised in comparison to the other and the figure looks to be leaning on his left leg, as if dancing in celebration.