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

Story Boards, Keram River, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea

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[Dugout canoe: 24k]

Figure 1: Detail from a large story board showing three couples in their canoe with its crocodile head prow. The large basket is a fish trap.

Three brothers, Ignas, Paulas and Zacharias Waybenang from Kambot Village on the Keram River worked in Angoram during the 1960s. Ignas had a job at a sawmill owned by the expatriate Australian, Jim McKinnon. He gave Ignas off cuts from the mill for their carvings.

The brothers got the idea of carving wood panels using the designs from their bark paintings. They developed this idea into the story boards and taught other carvers from Kambot.

[Spirit with a long snout, a bird sits on its head, surrounded by 6 Kambots, 2 playing kundu drums: 24k]

Figure 2: Story board depicting a spirit, possibly a deman.

"Deman ... are malevolent spirits that live in trees called barandama by the Kambot people and used by them for making canoes. Before a tree is felled, a food offering should be placed before the tree to warn the deman to move to another tree. Deman can be of either sex." from Mark Bilong Sepik, p. 39.

We collected an usual group depicting the Catholic Stations of the Cross in Kambot in 1995. A patron of The Crosier Brothers' American Museum of Asmat Art purchased the 14 story boards for the museum's collection.

Kambot, Chimondo and Bobten Villages on the Keram River all make story boards. Sales pay for school fees, for outboard motors and fuel to navigate the long distances on the rivers. Sago palms, which provide the staple food, are scare on the Keram, so families use carving income to buy rice and tinned fish when the rainy season floods make their gardens unusable.

The Keram River villages remain quite isolated. Only a few men, such as Paulas, bring their carvings into Angoram to sell on a regular basis. The rest rely on the occasional artifact buyer who makes the trip by motor canoe up the Keram.

[Painting the outline of a duck using white ochre to define the background: 27k]

Figure 3: Ignas laying out a panel at the Mt. Hagen Show.

Some Kambots do travel outside of the East Sepik Province. These panels were painted for the Haus Kulture at the l987 Mt. Hagen Show in the Highlands.

The master painters got up early before everyone else to do their layout and fine detail work without distraction. During the day, as people watched, they filled in the colors. Each older man brought a young apprentice, usually a relative, to learn and continue the tradition and to also have the experience of the world outside of the village.

[Panels show lizards, men, crocodiles and half-men/half crocodile ancestor figures: 46k]

Figure 4: Painter using red ochre mixed in a coconut shell. Finished panels are being assembled in the background.

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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