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Myth + Magic : Art of the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea (Paperback) (Crispin Howarth)
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Papua New Guinea’s mighty Sepik River has been home to many communities for over a thousand years and yet how much do we, as outsiders, really know and understand the culture and visual arts of this region?
Myth + Magic: Art of the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea provides a rare opportunity to encounter masterpieces from the Sepik, works of art that speak of a time and place where spirits and ancestors were integral to daily life. These works come from the rich collections of the National Gallery of Australia, other Australian museums and art galleries, and the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery. This publication celebrates the unique cultures of a country that is now celebrating its fortieth anniversary of independence.
The Sepik River is home to an array of art-producing communities distinguished for their visual arts, including sculptures of supernatural beings, masks and other fascinating objects that beguile and bewilder all who encounter them. For its inhabitants the Sepik River is a place of both serenity and harshness: a rich environment that has supported its people for generations but also delivers challenges through floods, clouds of mosquitoes and crocodiles. In pre-Christian times Sepik communities were faced with the constant threat of danger, as ambushes for the purpose of headhunting were a customary practice, and the limitations on engaging on any level with outsiders, beyond trade with trusted inter-community partners, were considerable. Given the need to survive in what is at times a confronting environment, one can imagine how the animist-like pantheons of spirits, both benevolent and malign, were translated into physical works of art by master-carver artists.
Myth + Magic presents the greatest examples of Sepik River art held in the southern hemisphere. This publication provides the best possible platform to acknowledge what these objects truly are—markers of culture, beyond their ethnographical worthiness, and powerful works of world art.