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Collection: Guy Spilers/Rene Van den Berghe (further information below)
Price on Request
This Yipwon spirit figure is from New Guinea’s Karawari River region. Each piece is carved from a single piece of wood and is a highly stylised representation of a primordial hunting spirit in human form. The carver has simplified the human figure into a series of hook-like projections. The head has a beard that terminates in a sharp point. A head-covering rises over the head and this is surmounted by a tassel not unlike a rooster’s comb. The torso is marked out by curved, rib-like projections. The eyes are marked out on both sides. Larger examples of these spirit figures were kept in the men’s ceremonial house. Smaller examples were kept as personal amulets. Medium-sized examples such as that here were owned by individuals and taken on raids and animal hunts.
According to Kjellgren (2007, p. 58), ‘Admired by Western artists for their radical conception of the human form, the distinctive one-legged hook figures (Yipwon) of the Korewari River region caused a sensation when the first examples reached the West in the 1950s.’
Further according to Kjellgren, Yipwon figures were largely inanimate. But before a raid or a hunt, the man most closely associated with it would activate it by chewing a concoction of betel nut, ginger, a small amount of his own blood, and substances such as excrement derived from the intended victim or game. The chewed mixture was then applied to the figure, which was also rubbed with stinging nettles to make it supernaturally ‘hot’. Spiritual approval of the planned attack or hunt was indicated by the figure turning to the direction of the target village or hunting area. If the attack or hunt was successful, then gratitude would be shown by smearing the figure with the victim or prey’s blood. Yipwon figures that did not prove useful were discarded. These are rare and unique one of a kind old Yipwon hunting charms with beautiful patina and would be a wonderful addition to your collection. They are stunning collectors pieces.
Close friends, Rene Vanden Berghe and Guy Spilers found themselves living a life of adventure they sought out and embraced. Born in Belgium just prior to WWII, they spent their youth under German occupation. After the war, the adventures continued with National Service in 1953-54 serving in an elite battalion: the para-commando platoon. After military service was over, Rene studied tropical agriculture and used a government grant to start a coffee plantation in the Belgian Congo where he only escaped by “the skin of his teeth” when he had to flee during the Lumumba Insurrection in 1961. He and Guy then emigrated to Australia where they secured employment as overseers for the Catholic Church Mission in New Ireland – running a plantation from 1962-72. Their knowledge, diligence and military training saw the plantation prosper despite tribal fights, earthquakes, riots and the occasional confrontation with axe and knife-wielding workers. Their practical skills were balanced by a love of art, photography and travel. A talented amateur photographer, Rene left an extensive collection of photographs of their experiences and travels. After leaving the plantation they traveled throughout Melanesia, French Polynesia and Micronesia, Europe, Asia and South America before settling in Nambour on the Sunshine Coast. They collected tribal art pieces throughout their travels to inspire Rene’s love of painting and sculpture.
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