Artist: Unknown
Culture/People: Tami Island
Place: Papua New Guinea
Media: Wood
Dims: 21.25 x 4 x 3.25 in.
Date: c. 1900
RTC No: OC0053
Gift of Ralph T. Coe, 2011


Hands-On curator, Qootsvenma “Taka” Denipah-Cook (Ohkay Owingeh), studied and wrote about this piece in the Hands-On Curatorial Program 2018 exhibition Eye Opener, which was held at the Coe Center.

According to Coe, this piece could have been hung in a ceremonial house or might represent a warning to young people due to the snake. But more research is needed. Other information leads me to think it could have been an object used for religious ceremonies.

Coe mentions that it is the mythical Selam snake—a creature that seduces and kills youths. He surmises that the projection on the top of the head represents a feather headdress, or, it could be the remains of something allowing the figure to be hung. He goes on to mention that it may very well have been hung upside down. He cites his source as the publication New Guinea Art Masterpieces from the Jolika Collection of Marcia and John Friede, 2005. (p.146).

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