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Art-Pacific (Carolyn Leigh - Ron Perry): Guide to Artifacts

Ramu River Shields, Papua New Guinea

[Ramu River shield with figure on the panel and cane basketry work on bottom: 20k]

The Ramu River basin in Madang Province parallels the larger Sepik River basin. During the rainy season, the two form a single flood plain. The population density is much lower on this smaller river and the villages farther apart.

[Ramu River shield: 15k]

The first two shields are from the Rao language group. In The Seized Collections, A. Kasprus (The Tribes of the Middle Ramu and the Upper Keram Rivers, 1973) is quoted:

According to Kasprus, all Rao shields have basically the same design, symbolizing the mask of the Ndaro. Ndaro is the name of a powerful supernatural being who occupies a central place in Rao religion. Shields are usually pierced near the rim for attachment of a carrying strap. Rao shields are used as a defense weapon in combination with bow and arrows. The Rao do not manufacture spears. Although they barter spears from the neighboring Breri, they do not seem to use them as fighting weapons but hold them "as trophies or showpieces."

The first shield is unusual in that the basketry weaving is still intact on the lower part of the shield. The addition of the bas-relief figure is not common. The second shield is more typical, including the fact that it has lost its woven basketwork.

[Usino Village breast shield, black with white dot detailing, heart shaped: 8k]

The third shield is a breastplate shield from Usino Village at the top of the Ramu River, near the Markham Valley. The dot design is accentuated with white lime pigment.


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Melanesian art TOC | Map of art areas of Melanesia
Papua New Guinea: Highlands: body art - Bundi tapa - jewelry/dancers | Karawari and Blackwater Rivers: masks - carvings - map | Massim: artifacts- Trobriand Kula - map | Kula canoe | New Britain: Baining - Sulka - Tolai dukduk | New Ireland: Malagan | Ramu River: masks - carvings - map | Sepik River: masks - carvings - villages - map | Papuan Gulf: masks - carvings - map - Gogodala - Kukukuku
other areas: Asmat | Solomon Islands: crafts - jewelry - map
art and craft:
barkcloth (tapa) | body art | cane and fiber figures | canoes and prows | jewelry/dancers | masks - Middle Sepik | phallocrypts | pottery - Chambri | shields | story boards | suspension hooks | weapons | yam masks - fiber | yam masks - wood

Indonesian art TOC | Dyak baby carriers and masks | furniture | Java folk art | Lombok baskets | Lombok lontar boxes | masks from Bali and Java | puppets

China: Bai textiles/art TOC | baby carriers | baby hats | woodblock prints

Collecting New Guinea art in the field since 1964.

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Artifacts on this site were collected in the field by my husband, Ron Perry. I take the photographs, do the html, text and maps. 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. by Carolyn Leigh is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-ND 4.0