buy New Guinea figures and prows from JungleOutpost.com and NewGuineaArt.com
The island of New Guinea is extremely rugged. Even today there are few roads. Dugout canoes are the main transportation on the long inland rivers like the Sepik and in the extensive lagoons and swampy regions. Out-rigger canoes sail along the coast and between the outer islands. The addition of outboard motors make travel much faster than with paddles or sails, but fuel is expensive and sometimes difficult to get.
A man will travel a long way up river to buy a large log. The log is towed back to the village, lifted onto the bank and roughed out with an adz. Fire is used to help burn out the interior and seal the surface against insects. The prow is shaped according to the tradition of the area, sometimes additional designs are carved on the sides. It may be painted with natural pigments or store house paint. For use with an outboard, a separate plank is tightly fitted into the back as a transom and caulked with clay. A canoe lasts around five to seven years. When canoes rot, many of the prows are cut off and saved for the artifact buyers.
Canoes are decorated with clan symbols and other emblems of power to insure speed and success. Along the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea, even the smallest child's canoe has a carved crocodile head prow. In Irian Jaya, an Asmat canoe may have an ancestral clan figure for a prow, similar to the ones used on their Bis poles. Canoes from the north coast of Irian Jaya have bird prows. Larger prows, such as the ones on the Trobriand Kula trade canoes or on war or ceremonial canoes, are more complex and contain many different motifs.
At dawn, the village women paddle in their small canoes out to fish. In Angoram and at other Sepik River road heads, women arrive in the early morning and line their canoes along the steep clay banks to unload their produce and dried fish to trade in the market. Later, the men and their families pole bigger canoes to slash and burn gardens or sago palm harvesting areas back along the edge of the river and its lagoons.
In New Guinea, a canoe is like a car; it provides transportation and more. A canoe with a beautiful prow has status and power.
More photographs and information on canoes and prowsbuy New Guinea figures and prows from JungleOutpost.com and from NewGuineaArt.com
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Artifacts on this site are collected in the field by my husband, Ron Perry. I take the photographs, do the html, text and maps. More background in Who We Are. Art-Pacific has been on the WWW since 1996. We hope you enjoy our New Guinea tribal art and Indonesian folk art as much as we do. Carolyn Leigh, P.O. Box 85284, Tucson, AZ 85754-5284 USA, Art-Pacific at http://www.art-pacific.com/