Arts of the Pacific Islands
On View: Great Hall, 1st Floor
Wood carvings from the Nicobar Islands are very rare, and only two other examples are known of this type, a heavy-bodied, crouching figure with a turtle carapace on the back. The figure's extraordinarily long arms, set in sockets, stretch forward. The face is anthropomorphic: the eyes are pointed ovals of shell; the mouth, with square-cut teeth, opens to reveal the tongue; and traces of the original bright red paint remain on the teeth, tongue, and lips. The figure wears a chin-strap helmet, pointed at the top in the Malayan manner. It suggests that the style derives from some part of the Malay Peninsula, where related dialects are spoken. The only recorded use of wood sculpture in this area was in forms of henta-koi, or "scare devils," intended to keep malevolent spirits at bay.
Wood, shell, pigment
29 x 17 1/2 x 25 1/2 in. (73.7 x 44.5 x 64.8 cm) (show scale)
Ella C. Woodward Memorial Fund and Museum Collection Fund
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Figure (Kareau), 19th century. Wood, shell, pigment, 29 x 17 1/2 x 25 1/2 in. (73.7 x 44.5 x 64.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Ella C. Woodward Memorial Fund and Museum Collection Fund, 63.57. Creative Commons-BY
overall, 63.57_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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Carved wooden figure with outstretched arms, open mouth and bent knees. The eyes are inlaid with shell and the lips as well as beard show traces of red paint. The figure is carved with a shell-like covering on its back and a hat which resembles a helmet. Its open mouth reveals a double row of square-cut teeth and a protruding tongue. The Nicobarese used the figure to scare away evil spirits.
Condition: good. Left arm is loose at socket. Crack on left side of hat. Crack above each arm and down each side. The excellent condition of this sculpture is evidenced by the traces of original paint remaining on the face as well as the original shell-inlaid eyes.
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