- Registration number
- Item name
- Carved figure
- Indigenous name
- Associated cultural group
- Pacific > Papua New Guinea > New Ireland Province > Kavieng District
- Acquisition date
- January 01, 1960
- Acquisition method
- Donated by Church of England Board of Missions
- Raw material
- Wood, shell, plant fibre, pigments, resin or bees wax
- H: 330 mm W: 630 mm L: D: 470 mm Circum:
From the UQ Anthropology Museum exhibition 'Musical Landscapes of Lihir', curated by Dr Kirsty Gillespie.
Malangan is a funerary ritual practiced in New Ireland begun as a response to colonial contact in the latter part of the 19th century; the third stage in a commemorative cycle which honors the dead through the revelation and then sacrifice of effigies of the deceased (Küchler 2002:1).
During a visit to the Anthropology Museum Martin Kombeng and Adam Kaminiel told us that this malangan is old, before their time. They identified the rare clamshell carving as a particular type of malangan called wiramus meaning of the sea or cycles of life from the sea (Kombeng & Kaminiel 2012, pers. comm., 6 Nov). The form of the carving is also evocative of waves. The clamshell relates to the ‘finishing’ of the dead by its mythical association with death by trapping (Küchler 2002:116). The pair of figures is carved inside the clamshell. They each have kapkap around their necks.
The malangan, acquired from the Church of England Board of Missions, is thought to be have been made in the late 19th to early 20th century because the resin or bees wax visible as the hair of the remaining human figure is believed to have been discontinued on the mainland after this period (M Gunn 2012, pers. comm., 18 Dec & Küchler 2012, pers. comm., 6 Nov). The malangan was originally painted first all over in lime and then in red using the root of a fruit tree, white from lime, black from charcoal and probably yellow. Inside the clamshell, the surface would have been covered with a nut paste in order to seal the cracks and prepare the surface for painting. The pieces carved across the middle depict the mid rib of a pig.
The significance of a single malangan carving cannot be fully understood as an object on its own, and would have been accompanied by other carvings, music and dancing. Each element in a carving is not purely aesthetic; they are created by specialists in order to fit perfectly together. Malangan scholars such as Susanne Küchler give the analogy of a musical composition where each part is created separately but can only be understood as a whole (S Küchler 2012, pers. comm., 6 Nov).