Melanesia New Ireland Namatanai Area Ceremonial Limestone ‘Kulap’

A Rare Melanesia New Ireland Namatanai Area Ceremonial Limestone ‘Kulap’ a Male Ancestor Figure
Traces of original stippled pigmented ornament
Repairs to waist consistent with ritual use
19th Century

Size: 48.5cm high - 19 ins high
A Rare Melanesia New Ireland Namatanai Area Ceremonial Limestone ‘Kulap’ a Male Ancestor Figure
 
These enigmatic carved limestone figures appear to have been restricted to the Namatanai district of south-eastern central New Ireland. Known as ‘Kulap’ they represent recently deceased ancestors and were created by specialists to serve as ritual temporary homes for the spirits of the dead who might otherwise wander and cause havoc among the living. The images were housed in small shrines constructed in the forest outside the village where only men were allowed to view them, although women could gather outside the shrine to mourn. As they all vary in size and attributes, it is thought that they were made to portray specific individual ancestors whose supernatural powers could be harnessed to benefit living descendants.
     The figures were believed to contain the soul of the deceased whom they represented and would be removed in secrecy from the shrine and ritually broken and discarded once the period of mourning was over in order to symbolically release the spirit into the realm of the ancestors.
     The Reverend George Brown provided the earliest recorded history of these figures and noted that with the advent of Christianity on New Ireland the ‘Kulap’ figures and associated cult of the dead had virtually disappeared by 1910.
General Pitt Rivers Dorset England 
Acquired Christies London, Important Tribal Art, June 1984 Lot 41
Ex Private English collection 

Melanesia New Ireland Namatanai Area Ceremonial Limestone ‘Kulap’

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ENQUIRIES

+44 (0) 207 689 7500

+44 (0)7836 684133
+44 (0)7768 236921

enquiries@finch-and-co.co.uk