Suspension hook

Iatmul peoples, Sepik River, Papua New Guinea
20th century


Object Place: Village of Aibom, Ambunti district, Middle Sepik River area, New Guinea

Dimensions

91.44 x 27.9 x 15.2 cm (36 x 11 x 6 in.)

Accession Number

1991.1077

Medium or Technique

Wood, fiber, shell, and pigment

On View

Arts of Asia, Oceania, and Africa Gallery (Gallery 177)

Collections

Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art

Classifications

Personal accessories

Although most figurative suspension hooks found throughout the Middle Sepik region have a flat lower element resembling an anchor or half moon, their style varies greatly. They range in size from twelve to eight inches. Very large hooks with elaborately carved figures may have hung in men’s ceremonial houses as sculptures rather than as utilitarian objects. Like freestanding figures, which resemble them in style and size, they may have ritual significance, representing protective clan spirits. This hook from the ceremonial men’s house in the latmul village of Aibom was collected during a 1963 census. The hook proper is a pointed half-moon shape with a raised relief of a schematic face. It supports a slender, round-shouldered female figure standing hands-to-hips with flexed legs and arms. The artist emphasized the large face with its long nose, pierced septum, and shell eyes by painting curvilinear lines and circles on the white surface, thus echoing the face painting of latmul women. White accents enhance the dark body and limbs, and raffia attachments adorn the ears, septum, and wrists.

Provenance

1963, collected from the main ceremonial house of Aibom Village, Papua New Guinea, by Wayne Heathcote, New York; April 28, 1979, sold by Wayne Heathcote to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1991, partial gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA; 2014, acquired fully with the bequest of William Teel to the MFA. (Accession Dates: January 22, 1992 and February 26, 2014)

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel