These male and female figures resemble the ancestral spirit figures that are found attached to the load-bearing poles of Abelam culture ceremonial men’s houses, also known as Tamberan (sacred spirit) houses.
Within the Holy Resurrection Cemetery are two anomalies. One is a group of broken stone slabs, evidently placed in a pile that later became much overgrown and partially buried. The other is a pair of short walls, constructed of the same type of stone slabs, that appear to outline a gravesite; more broken stone slabs lay inside and outside of these two walls.
The Holy Resurrection Cemetery was founded and used in the 19th century, during the time when segregation of whites and blacks was a way of life. The sign at the cemetery states that it is “Dedicated to Slaves, Indians, and Paupers,” because these are the people who would not have been allowed, or would not have been able to afford, to be buried in the white-only Ash Grove cemetery. The Berry family believed that everyone deserved a final resting place and established this cemetery in a field outside the town limits of Ash Grove.
These three shield-like sculptures are memorial boards for revered New Guinea ancestors. While they are carved throughout the region of the Gulf of Papua, they are most popularly produced by the Kerebo culture of Goaribari Island. The indigenous name for the sculptures varies among the different dialects; for example, they are called Gope by the Kerebo and Kwoi by the Wapo Creek and Era River cultures. While all such boards serve basically the same purpose, the names are variously interpreted as “spirit board,” “sacred board,” or “ancestor tablet.”
This large textile is a serape made in the traditional Mexican saltillo style. Serapes are defined as large woolen blanket tapestries that are worn like a cloak or a cape; when a serape has a central slit, it may also be worn as a poncho. Traditional saltillo-style serapes are believed to have originated in the town of Saltillo, a major producer of fine wool textiles in Colonial Mexico, but many different towns, such as Aguascalientes, are known for producing very similar styles of serapes.
All traditional Senufo fila cloth has three things in common: the mud-dying technique, the style of horizontal and vertical painted lines and signs, and connections with a diviner. Also known as Korhogo cloth (named for the village in which it is made), fila is used to show status, for good luck, and as a means of communication with the supernatural world following divination.
The Senufo Figural Urn with Monkey Lid most likely served as a receptacle for powerful substances used during divination. Divination, or divining, is a ritual in which the Senufo diviners—most of whom are women–consult the supernatural in order to help people with their problems. The covered urns used in these rituals tend to be small, as these are usually personal rituals, so this elaborate urn is unusual because of its size; it was likely used in important, large-scale, or more public divination rituals.
While the Iatmul Orator’s “Chair” may resemble a small chair, it is never used by any live person as a seat. Also known as a “speaking chair,” this object is used during speeches and debates to keep track of each speaker’s main points, and it is thought to serve as the place for, and to represent the presence of, an important ancestor who would witness a specific speech or debate.
The massive Nimba headdress, also known as the D’mba, is the principal work of art of the Baga and the Nalou peoples. The headdress presents, in stylized form, the feminine ideal of noble motherhood: She assumes an erect posture to show elegant comportment, and she has finely braided hair, scarification that marks her as a mature woman, and large, heavy breasts that sag to show that she has borne and nurtured many children.
Ngwalndu figural reliefs are images that represent the male and female ancestral spirits of the Abelam culture. Male ancestor images clearly exhibit large, sculpted male genitalia, while representations of female ancestors, such as the Ngwalndu Female Figural Relief in this exhibit, are more subtle. Only a black painted triangle or diamond shape indicates the female genitalia; sometimes an oval is used to represent her belly, and small painted shapes may be used to indicate her breasts.
Tapa is a type of cloth that is made throughout Oceania (the Pacific Islands) from the inner bark of the mulberry tree and that may be dyed, stamped, and/or painted with designs. In the Tongan Islands, tapa cloth is specifically known as ngatu.
This bowl was originally suggested as being a Hopewell culture vessel from the Woodland Period (1000 BCE to 1000 CE). However, this is a large, deep, very rounded vessel, a shape not common to the Hopewell. While it is dark grey on the exterior, an examination of the clay body shows that it is reddish underneath this exterior slip and that the interior of the clay is grey, indicating that it was low-fired, and that the clay was tempered with crushed shell. All of these characteristics, along with the vessel’s particular shape, indicate that this was more likely a piece made by Native Americans of the Late Woodland Continuity period or Mississippian period cultures.
The round base and the constricted opening of this vessel are a characteristic of a storage container. The tall neck was most likely added to keep the contents from spilling, which suggests that this was a bottle, carafe, or jar – a container for liquids. There is little discoloration of the bottom of the vessel and no evident soot, which suggests that it was not placed over a fire for cooking. While scratching evident on the interior suggests that the contents may have been stirred with a utensil, these marks are so slight that the vessel was evidently little-used.
Like all Lesotho tapestries, this fine textile was made for the tourist trade, intended to serve as a functional rug or as a mounted and displayed tapestry. While mohair had always been exported by the Lesotho, it was not until the Swiss introduced tapestry weaving into the region in the 1960s that Lesotho women began manufacturing their own textiles as a means of income. Prohibited from herding livestock or migrating to jobs in the surrounding areas, Lesotho women embraced the weaving of mohair and cotton textiles and developed these arts into a fine product for the tourist trade.
This complex urn was produced by an artist of the Malinke Culture of western Africa, a culture closely associated with the Senufo. It was likely used for the same type of purpose as the Senufo Figural Urn with Monkey Lid also in this exhibit.
Ojibwe bandolier bags are traditional garments worn by both men and women in Ojibwe culture. The bags earned the designation “bandolier” because they are worn with the bag on one hip, with the wide strap crossing over the body and draping over the opposite shoulder, like a bandolier of ammunition. Sometimes two bags are worn, each draping across the opposite shoulder, fully (if unintentionally) mimicking crossed bandoliers. While these bags are often worn during religious ceremonies and other important activities, they do not specifically hold religious significance, and instead are decorative, elite articles of clothing appropriate for important religious, political, and civic events.