Museum Folkwang
  • Ozeanica

  • Museum Folkwang boasts a small, select collection of 19 works by Melanesian artists, most of which were added to the inventory around 1915. Most of these come from Papua New Guinea, an island state that has been independent since 1975 and whose northern territories were part of the German colonial empire from 1884 through 1914.
    The largest coherent group of works consists of seven sculptures from the island of New Ireland located in the north east of this state. Franz Wiesner, a civil servant born in Hagen and serving as an imperial police chief for the German colonial administration of Papua New Guinea, presented them to Osthaus through the mediation of Ada and Emil Nolde.

    Malagans are multi-coloured, highly diverse carvings, usually involving openwork. Often the artists combined human forms with others from the worlds of animals and plants. These carvings, which were sometimes assembled from different elements, were given additional depth and vivacity by means of elaborate painting.
    The production process was divided up into phases and could take several weeks or even months. It was conducted by specialists who were paid in shell money. The artists’ work was considered dangerous because it involved contact with otherworldly beings.
    The carvings – both the malagans and the uli – were used in the context of large-scale memorial ceremonies for the dead. They were popular at the time when the rituals were conducted and, in the case of the malagan carvings, they were presented in show huts or on meter-high walls, as the medium through which the dead could finally enter the afterworld. In this way, their spiritual power could be passed on to their descendants. Malagan figures in human shape used in rituals could represent recently departed relations, ancestors who died a long time ago or even the life-force that is transmitted from generation to generation.
    Two other malagan figures can also be identified by their formal and stylistic characteristics. They probably belong to the Marada sub-tradition that is associated with rain magic. This was important not only with regard to fertility and ensuring fruitful plant cycles, but moreover was an indispensable component of all rituals. As a rule, families or sub-clans who had the rights to Marada were also the guardians of rainmaker groves, where not only carved figures but also the skulls of famous deceased rain conjurers were kept in large bowls made of tridacna shells (cf. the blossom-like ornament on which the two figures were kept).

    Important examples of a sub-clan were horizontal friezes known as kobokobor. The presentation of such friezes meant that the recipient had reached the ranks of a ritual leader. The horizontal frieze in Museum Folkwang’s collection features three male figures between whom two so-called »eyes of fire« (mataling) are portrayed. This enables the sculpture to be identified as a kobokobor from the Valik sub-tradition. In earlier days, according to ritual use, friezes of this kind were sometimes hung up at initiation houses.
  • Exh_Title_S: Ozeanica
  • Exh_Id: 503
  • Exh_Comment_S (Verantw): Archaeology, Global Art, Applied Arts
  • Exh_SpareNField01_N (Verantw ID): 185
Works
Malagan-Figur
  • Oceania
  • Malagan-Figur, Anfang 20. Jh.

  • Malagan Figure
  • Anthrpomorphic figure as metaphorical embodiment of the vitality, passed on from generation to generation, of the clan possessing the figure.
  • Inv. K 616
Malagan-Figur
  • Oceania
  • Malagan-Figur, around 1912

  • Malagan Figure
  • Anthropormorphic male figure used in ancester and mortuary cults and part of the tradition of rain magic.
  • Inv. K 618
Malagan-Figur
  • Oceania
  • Malagan-Figur, before 1912

  • Malagan Figure
  • Anthropormorphic male figure used in ancester and mortuary cults and part of the tradition of rain magic
  • Inv. K 623
Malagan-Fries
  • Oceania
  • Malagan-Fries, Anfang 20. Jh.

  • Malagan Frieze
  • Horizontal friezes with anthropmorphic figures such as this are among the most important malagan of a subclan’s ritual property.
  • Inv. K 624