- Registration number
- Item name
- Indigenous name
- Associated cultural group
- Sawos people
- Pacific > Papua New Guinea > East Sepik Province > Angoram District > Sawos group
- Raw material
- H: 1544 mm W: 465 mm L: D: 74 mm Circum:
Malu board 23100 is overall 1544 mm long, 465 mm wide, up to 74 mm in depth, and with an average thickness of the board of 6 mm. Carvings on the ventral surface show a stylised human. At the top is a round face with a noticeable, elongated nose, circular patches on the cheeks, and a shallow triangular ‘cap’. The middle section is elaborately carved with an openwork design. Two pairs of birds, each pair symmetrically opposed to each other with their tails interlocking, form the main part of the carving. These are surrounded by a series of tear-drop shapes. The lower section has free standing prongs and a panel scalloped into three broad lobes, the central one being a maskette. An equally elaborate design appears on the dorsal side, with a different face atop, and the absence of a maskette. There are traces of coloured ochre (including whites, blacks, browns, reds, oranges, yellows) remaining on the board, mainly in cracks formed by the carved designs. Interpretations of the designs include the face and elongated nose being symbolic of a sago beetle. The large circles on the cheeks bear similarity to face decorations painted on some successful head hunters. The carved representations of birds in the centre of the object is symbolic of human eyes. The tear-drop shapes are stylised human heads / skulls, and the maskette and free standing prongs at the bottom can represent either a fish or snake [Peter Connell 1999].
According to Anthony Meyer: 'Ceremonial skull-rack or Malu board, possibly intended for the display of captured enemy heads. The malu represent a highly stylized male human figure: the archaetypical cannibal, the founding father of the group, a great cultural hero an warrior. Sawos people, middle Sepik.