X65.5296 Ceremonial house board

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Ceremonial house board
Papuan Gulf, Papua New Guinea
19th-20th century
Wood, pigment
X65.5296; Gift of the Wellcome Trust

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Carved and painted boards of this type were kept in men’s ceremonial houses in villages along the shores of the Papuan Gulf. They were passed from generation to generation within a clan. Each board was named for a legendary clan hero, who was also the subject of a long epic describing the origin of the clan. The epics were recited orally but never written, so the boards played a key role in stimulating memory and the retelling of the epic. The boards were also thought to embody the legendary hero’s extraordinary powers, which could be called upon for aid in hunting and warfare.

Gallery text, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006

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