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Wakde Island, West Papuan, Canoe Ornament
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Wakde Island, West Papuan, Canoe Ornament

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Canoe Prow Ornament (Mani)

This prow ornament is from  Wakde an island off the coast of West Papua, collected in the 1960's. Canoe prow ornaments like this were like figureheads on elaborately adorned canoes that were made for sea and coastal journeys.  This canoe prow ornament known as a Mani was detachable.  Most prow ornaments in New Guinea and this is no exception were not just decorative but served to protect the canoe crew and passengers and ensure abundant fishing.

According to Eric Kjellgren’s “ Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art “ page 42 ( which illustrates a very similar example donated by Nelson Rockefeller in 1969. )  “ The ornaments likely portrayed supernatural beings and remote ancestors, who were said to possess the ability to lead the canoe to the shoals of fish and to ensure its safe return to the village laden with catch.The imagery of mani often incorporates depictions of birds, humans and fish.  Most consist of a central open work of vertical element, crowned with by a large, relatively naturalistic bird figure.  This was flanked by stylised birds and human heads. In the Metropolitan Museum’s example which is very similar to this it is suggested the bird on top is a sea bird on the lookout for schools of fish. The heads are likely to be ancestors or protective spirits which gaze back at the crew and forward to the sea. When in use this mani was secured to the canoe with cord via the hole at the base. For similar example and explanation refer to “ New Guinea Art: Masterpieces from the Jolika Collection of Marcia and John Friede  “   Fine Arts Museum San Francisco  2005 Vol 2 page 182.

Size 53cm by 19cm. Includes metal stand







































































































































































Last Updated: Sunday, 18 February 2018 18:16