Utilitarian Object or Sculpture?
In many Oceanic cultures, sculpture, painting, or carving adorns almost every object of everyday and ritual life. By decorating all objects in their lives, the people of these cultures believe that they can bring the world of the spirits into active participation in everyday life. Like many of the other peoples of the Sepik River region, the Iatmul carve (often elaborate) basket hooks, also called suspension hooks. Figurative hooks suspended from the rafters of ordinary dwellings and lavishly decorated men’s cult houses have multiple purposes and meanings. Ordinarily, they were used to hang bags and vessels of food out of reach of dogs, children, etc. More elaborate examples, such as this impressive piece, had religious significance and served to suspend skull trophies. The human forms on the upright shanks may represent ancestors and refer to family and clan myths, assuring the welfare of their community. Since I don’t have a “hook” designation in my database, I’m calling this “sculpture!” It’s also a nice example of the painting style.