Suspension hook

Biwat peoples, Papua New Guinea
19th–20th century


Object Place: Yuat River region, Biwat (Mundugumor) people, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea

Dimensions

Overall: 33 x 14.5 x 7 cm (13 x 5 11/16 x 2 3/4 in.)

Accession Number

1994.403

Medium or Technique

Wood, pigment

Not On View

Collections

Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art

Classifications

Personal accessories

Wooden hooks varying in size and elaboration are among the most common objects from the Sepik region. Fastened by rope to the rafters of ceremonial men’s houses or family dwellings, they suspend net bags or baskets filled with ritual paraphernalia, valuables, and food, thus protecting these items from insects and moisture. Typically, standing figures in frontal poses surmount such hooks, especially the more elaborate ones from the men’s houses. This hook is unusual in representing a crouching figure in profile. It is similar to another hook with two profile figures now in the Australian Museum in Sydney that was also collected by E.J. Wauchope during one of his collecting expeditions to the Sepik for that museum. The bowed torso of this figure mirrors the lower curve of the hook. Flexed legs and arms, grasping feet, and large six-fingered hands support the figure. The heavy brows, pierced nose, and round eyes (which were once inlaid) are characteristic features favored by Mundugumor artists. The sculptor delicately incised triangular, large-eyes faces in low relief on both sides of the upper hook.

Provenance

1930s, collected in the Biwat area of the Yuat River, Papua New Guinea by E. J. Wauchope, Sydney, Australia. April 4, 1984, sold by Wayne Heathcote (dealer), New York, to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1994, 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 26, 1994 and February 26, 2014)

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel