Ancestral Flights:
The Artist’s Waking World

Alcheringa Gallery, Victoria
September 16 - October 10

Jerry Kiang (Yamok Village, Sepik River Basin,
Papua New Guinea), Climbing Frogs (1999),

kwila wood and natural ochres
Frog Totem

Alcheringa Gallery, Victoria September 16 - October 10 - Imagery from the Yamok Village area of Papua New Guinea's Sepik River Basin are highlighted in this new collection of carvings. This is the first part of a series of exhibitions, each one will feature a different Sepik River village.

Traditionally, all men on the Sepik River were carvers and they trained one new generation after another. Although many of the carvers in Papua New Guinea today supply the tourist market with small memorabilia, the twenty-plus artists featured in this exhibit have been designated as "mastercarvers" by their peers. They produce the larger and more complex master works that best exemplify the highest skills of the country.

Reaching the hamlets of the carvers means a difficult trek into swampy jungle. The relative isolation allows the men to concentrate on their treasured carvings. Here, Mervinbunga revives ceremonial and inspirational images of birds in the form of stylized hornbills. Yanu has acquired a reputation for sensitive line and fine patterning. Other artists create a myriad of such other bird forms as hummingbirds and birds of paradise. Wooden panels and sculptures depicting village customs and ancestral creatures, like the one by Nick Minja, convey the joy and pleasure taken in their work.

© Mia Johnson