garra, Hunstein Mountains, PNG
This figure is carved in hardwood, a flat silhouette form, with four sets of fine concentric hooks, surrounding a central looped motif. The polished leg suggests early 20th Century, with the hooked surface showing repainting over time. “The iconography of these objects varies. The hooks are said to represent rows of hornbill beaks centring on the sun and moon or, alternatively, the eyes of cassowaries and pigs.”(1). These garra figures are identified with water spirits and, as such, may be immersed in water from time to time,
They were always kept secretly in the Men’s House; and believed to give power to men in both hunting and warfare.
One related story is that they are carried during ceremony in the Men’s House, and the hooked shadows of the figure flickering across the walls and roof are the presence and life force of the spirits.
Ex-collection Joan Bowers, Sydney. Ex-collection Elizabeth Pryce, Sydney
Size: 98 X 21 CM