Our deepest thanks go to the outstanding master carvers from Palembei village whose work appears in this exhibition. While firmly based in tradition these contemporary works abound with both innovation and individual expression.
Among the finest traditional art forms of the Sepik region are the finials that grace the roof line immediately above the gable at each end of the men's ceremonial house. Viewed from the ground the most visible figure is that of an eagle above a female figure. The bird soaring aloft often with outspread wings can be seen at the peak on both ends. This ornamentation can be seen throughout the middle Sepik region, and in each case reflects the particular carving style of the village. The meaning behind the iconography of all roof finials is common to all with variations. This version was told to me by senior master carver Simon Gambro Marmos from Tambanum village
Long ago there was a woman who lived on a load anchor in the middle of the Sepik River. She thought she was about to give birth to a child but instead she laid three eggs. Two eggs became eagles and the other a crocodile who dived into the water. The two eagles caught men and ate human flesh. The crocodile stayed under the water and watched this happen, then went up and killed the two eagles. The human ancestors saw this and then built the haus tambaran with the finial figures shaped as eagles with crocodile tails. The woman is always present as the mother of the eagle and the crocodile
Within this exhibition there is an amazing range of contemporary examples of the finial form incorporating as well as eagles many other creatures from the natural world, such as hornbills, roosters, snakes and leaping fish. As well there are whimsical renderings of a wallaby and a cuscus by John Sakuri.
Some of the carvings illustrate traditional myths but with the artist's original interpretation such as Bernard Bara's Canoe With Five Paddlers and Peter Minja's Bukduma. In recent years the artists from Palembei have created a broader palette of colours by mixing the range of natural ochres available to them.
Senior artists such as Joseph Timbin and Andrew Busha have contributed fine carvings, but for the most part this amazing body of work has been created by master carvers whose average age is twenty seven years. Without doubt we can rest assured that the future of artistic tradition in Palembei Village is in safe hands.
February 3rd - March 4th, 2000 Email us for a list of works and prices.