Lake Sentani, Irian Jaya, New Guinea, Melanesia
H. 210 cm

Wood (Intsia bijuga)

Provenance: former Jolika collection by Marcia and John Friede, Rye, New York, U.S.A.

Publication: Carlier, J-E., Du lac Sentani au village d’Aitape, Paris, Galerie Voyageurs & Curieux, 2022, p. 34 à 37

There are two types of canoes in the Lake Sentani area. The first, reserved for men, is a small boat, frail, single-seater, so narrow that the user cannot sit down and is forced to place one leg in front of the other. Sometimes a leg is suspended in the water to help maintain the fragile balance of the unstable canoe. The second canoe, reserved for women, is much larger and can carry up to fifteen women or young girls. These canoes are used during fishing, to go in the gardens or even the sago palms. It is also the task of the women, when the men have killed a pig in the woods, to bring it back in the canoe. They sing while paddling and keep the rhythm by beating their paddles against the side of the canoe. This long dugout paddle has a flat, pointed blade decorated on one side with intricate clan motifs. The decorations on the blades of the paddles are used to identify the family clan of its owner. It seems that the paddle blades used by women are more richly ornamented than those used by men. An anthropomorphic sculpture stands at the other end of the paddle acting as a pommel. This sculpture of great delicacy is probably that of an ancestor of the clan whose bust comes to decorate and inhabit the paddle with his spirit.

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