Ceremonial Board (gerua wenena)

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Ceremonial Board (gerua wenena)

Papua New Guinea, Eastern Highlands Province, Siane People, circa 1955
Sculpture
Wood and pigment
58 x 23 x 3 in. (147.32 x 58.42 x 7.62 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation with additional funding by Jane and Terry Semel, the David Bohnett Foundation, Camilla Chandler Frost, Gayle and Edward P. Roski and The Ahmanson Foundation (M.2008.66.17)
Currently on public view:
Ahmanson Building, floor 1 MAP IT
Ahmanson Building, floor 1

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This large humanlike form is actually the manifestation of a Siane creation myth and celestial symbol. The diamond-shaped body represents the moon, the round head, the sun, and the bent limbs, the road between them. The painted designs on the wenena gerua were specific to the family who created and owned the figure.

Wenena gerua were headdresses worn by the big-men of the Siane in ceremonies. The big-men were the chieflike nobles at the head of Siane society, the most important and powerful men in the group, who had multiple wives and large collections of pigs, symbols of their wealth. The headdresses were worn at Pig Festivals to honor the power of pigs, and the figure itself was intended to maintain the health, fertility, and protection of the pigs and children. Pigs were gathered together during such ceremonies as displays of power.

The Siane are people of the Papua New Guinea Highlands, an extremely isolated and mountainous region where most inhabitants avoid extensive contact with others. The art objects of the isolated Siane are some of the most complexly carved and highly decorative sculptures from a region where sculptural examples are few. The wenena gerua have simpler, smaller counterparts throughout the Highlands; these elegant figures, however, stand up to six feet tall and are more unique to the Siane.

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Bibliography

  • Wardwell, Allen. Island Ancestors: Oceanic Art from the Masco Collection. [Seattle]: University of Washington Press, 1994.