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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Oceanic Art : Pair of Oceanic Wood Sculptures of a Man and a Woman
Pair of Oceanic Wood Sculptures of a Man and a Woman - LSO.255
Origin: Oceania
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 55" (139.7cm) high
Collection: Oceania

Location: Great Britain
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Oceanic and African sculptural techniques are somewhat similar to the untrained (or possibly western) eye, yet each brings with it differing attitudes, aims and methods that are in fact utterly disparate. The heritage of Oceanic (including Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia) groups is based around seafaring, fishing and hunting, and their religions tend to be based around ancestor worship although there is considerable spatial variation in this enormous area. The current figures represent ancestors and founders of the society; the fertility aspect of this belief is inherent in the fact that they are male and female, designed to be embedded in the ground and exhibited together. They are similar in many respects. They are each made from a substantial piece of wood approximating to an entire tree-trunk. Their heads retain this general columnar shape while their bodies are antero-posteriorly compressed. Facially, their features are based around a “T” shaped nose/forehead format, and the female’s eyes are protuberant. All other facial features are incised. The male’s upper and lower teeth are exposed, while only the female’s lower dentition is showing. The female has a large eminence on the back of her head, whereas the male does not. The male has a double socket at the level of the neck that may be intentional on the part of the carver, or more probably – given its characteristics – it is the remains of a socket joint from an old timber ship which was salvaged in order to make this piece. The arms are flexed at the elbow and the hands brought into the upper chest; the female’s breasts are framed by her arms in so doing. The front of the figure is plain down to what may be an umbilicus, whereas the male’s abdomen flows naturally into the shape of a phallus with undercutting towards the legs. The shape of the lower body is defined by an anteriorly-angled flexing of the knees to give a sinuous profile, culminating in a weathered solid block where the piece as mounted into the ground. The wood is extremely hard and heavy, hence the good condition of the pieces. No libation patina is apparent, although if these items were exposed to the elements it would have been eroded through time. These are dramatic and well-proportioned pieces, which would be highly impactive in any domestic or collector’s environment. - (LSO.255)


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