gra or garra hooks Figure

Height: 1.28 m

Carved wood formed by opposing hooks on a long, slender “spine”.

Ochre pigments with dotted lime decoration

Presumed date of origin: first half of 20th century

Bahinemo population

Nigiru Village, Hunstein Mountains

Papua New Guinea


Collected in situ by Wayne Heathcote

Douglas Newton1, New York, acquired from previous owner Joel Cooner, Dallas, USA

James Barzyk, Naperville, USA Sotheby’s New York May 7, 2016 lot 6

Exhibition :

Museum of Primitive Art, New York.  Ritual art of the Upper Sepik River, New Guinea.

February-May 1969


Douglas Newton, Crocodile and cassowary, Religious Art of the Upper Sepik River,

New Guinea.  Museum of Primitive Art, 1971, p. 26, reproduced no. 26

Michael Hamson, Oceanic Art. Paris 2017. Reproduced page 30

According to Anthony Meyer, “The Hunstein Mountains, home to the Bahinemo people, mark the south-western border of the Middle Sepik. Bahinemo masks are interesting in that they are not intended to be worn.” And Meyer continues: “All garra, or sacred objects of the Bahinemo, are said to have been originally created by Wimogu and Igoshua, a mythical couple who, it is said, still live on a small island at the mouth of the Avril River.[… ] The use of crochet as a symbolic and decorative element in the art of New Guinea comes from an archaic source, and is probably linked to the Bronze Age cultures of Southeast Asia and the Indonesian islands from which the first migrations came. Throughout Southeast Asia, the Great Hornbill (Rhyticeros) is associated with the soul, the ancestor and the spirit world. Its large, curved beak is often depicted on ancestor figures and as a war and headhunting accessory.  On the garra masks produced by the Bahinemo people, the outermost hooks are often carved as complete and instantly recognizable hornbill heads.”

Concerning a Garra figure in the JOLIKA collection at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, John Friede notes that it was “hung when not in use on beams or placed in rows inside the upper part of the ceremonial house”.

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