Skip Navigation

Ancestral Figure (Korwar)

Arts of the Pacific Islands

Korwar figures serve to keep surviving relatives in contact with their deceased ancestors and thus always able to secure their powerful blessings. They serve as a medium of communication between the living and the dead. Korwars may be standing or squatting figures. The heads are large in relation to the highly abstract bodies; the chin is usually straight, horizontal, and broad; and the nose is the most prominent facial feature. This highly unusual double figure holds a shield (now partially eroded). The shield has been said to derive from the snake, which in turn represents rejuvenation and regeneration, a key idea in the religion of the people of Cenderawasih Bay.
DATES early 20th century
DIMENSIONS 8 3/4 x 6 x 5 1/4 in. (22.2 x 15.2 x 13.3 cm)
INSCRIPTIONS La Korrigaine expedition marking, D.39.3/1018
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CREDIT LINE Frank L. Babbott Fund
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Korwar (mortuary figure). Carving is that of two figures, male and female, holding a stylized snake, each figure with one arm on a snake and the other arm on the free arm of the other figure. Male figure wears a tiny cap on top of his head. Condition: completely worm eaten around lower section. Top is in good condition.
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.