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

Story Boards from Bark Paintings, Keram River, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea

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[Brown wood panel with bas relief figures detailed in white and black paint: 32k]

Story boards are wood panels based on bark paintings from the men's ceremonial houses on the Keram River, a tributary of the Sepik River. Sometimes the carvers depict spirit figures from their clan stories.

Figure 1: Story board of village scene with people and thatch houses. The man at the bottom has killed a crocodile.

Figure 2: Detail of Keram River bark painting from the Angoram Haus Tambaran.

[Two birds: 5k]

More often the men carve village activities: crocodile hunting, traveling in dugout canoes, fishing, preparing sago flour, fights and funerals. The backdrop is their thatch homes and their ceremonial house nestled beneath the tall coconut palms that mark the locations of villages on the rivers. Also included are village animals: pigs, dogs and chickens, plus jungle wildlife: fish, crocodiles, cassowaries, and black cockatoos.

Next: Bark Paintings

Changes in village arts (from our first Art-Pacific Artifact of the Month, December 1996)

I chose story boards, a new craft developed in response to a new need, to start this series. Artifacts which do not conform to the outside world's idea of what villagers should be carving, i.e. traditional items solely for use by themselves, are often devalued as having been corrupted by outside influence.

The people of New Guinea are not museum exhibits to be collected and preserved at the moment of contact like their exotic Birds of Paradise. They are intelligent, inventive people dealing with a quickly changing world. It is no surprise that their art also changes to meet these new circumstances, just as it changed and evolved in the past. No culture, no art form is completely static, only the rate of the change differs.

Art was used in pre-contact days to evoke help from ancestors and clan spirits for success in raids, hunting, gardening, and other activities. Now art is sometimes also produced to sell. Money purchases things which make life easier on the rivers: outboard motors, plastic buckets and so on. Perhaps to people who live in this difficult environment the result is much the same, art is a means to improve their lives. Carolyn Leigh

Next: Bark Paintings

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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 TOCv | 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