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"Art of New Guinea "

Exhibition/Art Sale at Galerie Lakaye

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#1 of 11

Asmat Shield

12″ × 62″
Carved wood, natural pigment


Photograph by Pascal Giacomini

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New Guinea Asmat Shield: Art Exhibit Photo

The Asmat people (population 70,000) live in the western part of New Guinea, an Indonesian province known as Irian Jaya or West Papua. Asmat also refers to the region they inhabit. Until recently the Asmat culture focused on warfare and headhunting. Shields are used as protection from the physical and spiritual powers of the enemy. Shield motifs and the ancestor for whom a shield is named give the owner power. This shield is decorated with the symbol of the cuscus (tree kangaroo) tail, and an ancestor figure at the top. (Just seeing a symbol such as this has the ability to send enemies fleeing in terror.) A shield always represents an ancestor and is believed to carry the spirit of that ancestor, which makes the owner fierce and powerful.




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