West Papua Diary

Papua Art Project: Asmat Art Being the Biggest Art Project in West Papua

The Asmat are one of the largest tribes in Papua. This tribe is known for its unique wood carvings. This tribe are among the Mappi, Yohukimo Jayawijaya, and various other tribes on the island of Papua. Asmat has the biggest Papua art project, here’s some information you need to know about it.


West Papua Art of the Asmat Tribe

Asmat carving art was born from religious ceremonies. The naturalist carvings of the Asmat tribe have various motifs, ranging from human statues, panels, boat shields, and tifa. Cassowary eggs to the size of the pole. 

“The result of dialogue with ancestral spirits” is used as a pattern for their carvings, such as boats, trees, animals and boating people, hunting people, and others. For those who want to collect original statues, then like it or not, they must be ready to penetrate the interior of the Papuan wilderness.

Asmat carving is a religious ritual for ancestral spirits symbolized in the form of statues and wood carvings. The true carving art of Asmat carvers has been widely known to the world no less the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, one of the world’s great museums, also has Asmat sculpture artifacts.

History of West Papua Art of Asmat Tribe

This indigenous carving art of the interior of Papua art has been known to the world since the 1700s. Every year in October, more people become aware of this Asmat carving’s reputation. 

“This festival highlights the art of carving which is the uniqueness of Asmat craftsmen, including carving, Asmat traditional dances and Asma traditional boat maneuvers.” 

Currently, their number is 70 thousand people. The Asmat community consists of 12 sub-ethnics, each of which has characteristics in its artwork. Each tribe has its advantages. 

Some stand out on salawaku carvings or shields, some have carvings for canoe decoration and some are superior on wooden pole carvings. In terms of pattern and scale also have differences from each other. The Asmat tribe has the art of carving, especially carving sculptures, masks, and shields. The style of Asmat sculpture includes:

The sculptures are set up in a tree-like pattern, from top to bottom, following the genealogies of their ancestors. For instance, the MBIS based on when a society decides to exact retribution on its members who died in a fight,

The statue’s shape in this style is slightly wider at the bottom. This Papua art style has its head separated from the rest and shaped like a turtle or fish head. 

Sometimes there are pictures of ancestors on the head, while the body decorations are in the form of flying civets, boxes, tadung birds’ heads, snakes, and worms.

This style is a unique feature of the carving style of the East Asmat people. The shields are generally enormous, even exceeding the height of the Asmat people.

The top is not divided from the rest and is typically decorated with black and red stripes and red dots.

This style is only divided at the head, making it nearly as big and tall as a C-style shield. Using geometric ornaments like circles, spirals, right angles, and so on is standard.

Characteristics of the Asmat Papua Art Carving

Papua Art Asmat carving has a characteristic that distinguishes it from carvings from other regions. Art collectors highly value Asmat sculptures, because of their exquisite craftsmanship and minute carving details.

Many motifs related to nature, living things, and daily life activities are found in Asmat carvings. Common patterns include bats, birds of paradise, and fish.

While the traditional depictions of people include them fighting, hunting, or looking for fish, it is not uncommon for them to reflect on the daily activities of the Asmat ancestors. These designs and patterns are, of course, inextricably linked to the Asmat tribe’s way of life.

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