Rare Aitape Figure
Aitape, Papua New Guinea, 19th century
Wood, rattan, hair, natural fiber, rope, pigments
Height : 50 cm with hair
Provenance : Collected by German mission before 1914
Private collection, Germany
Klaus-Jochen Krüger, Hamburg
Kevin Conru, Bruxelles
The art of Aitape on the northwest coast of Papua New Guinea is rather scarce outside German museums. Named Berlinhafen in 1905 and established as a train station by the German colonial institution, the town was occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.
The first documented objects from this region were probably collected by Christian missionaries of the Societatis Verbi Divini (the Society of the Divine Word or SVD) from Germany and Hol- land, in 1896. In the early twentieth century, both historical and natural disasters soon put an end to the collecting campaigns of ancient pre-contact carvings. In 1908, the region was struck by a major tsunami, and a second one in 1935, resulting in the collapse of entire settlements along the coast. In 1942, Aitape was then again at the center of battles, during the recapture of the region by American forces.
For a comparable figure with human hair attached on top of the head, strong cubistic features, and a vegetal fiber cloth attached to the waist, see Sepik, Arts de Papouasie-Nouvelle-Guinée, Musée du Quai Branly, 2015-2016, cat. 55.
Price on request