Wood, Bone and Spirit

I saw a breathtaking exhibit yesterday at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California called ‘Spirits and Headhunters: Art of the Pacific Islanders‘.  If you live in the area I would highly recommend it.  If you can’t attend, here are some of my impressions to give you a taste.

3 Malagan Masks by Chris Rainier

Evil fleshless fish spirit, Malaga

Tolai tribe cult figure for casting black magic

Abelam ceremonial bone daggers

Dani finger bone necklace. The Dani people believe that mutilation is necessary to bring peace to the spirit realm and used ritual finger cutters to remove fingers to mourn family members or important village elders

Vanuatu "over modeled skulls" - skulls of important men are removed after death and resculpted to resemble the original face

Let Mortal Kombat Begin!

Yipwon Hook Figures, Ewa and Yimar People: One legged figures that rest in caves or spirit house until activated by incantations and magical substances to serve as hunting spirits

Chimbu Ritual Magic Bag: bones, moss, bark, stones and talismans

While my photographs focus on some of the more lurid aspects of the ‘headhunter’ culture I am deeply impressed with the people of the Pacific Islands.  This relatively small group has over 800 different languages and a staggering variety of unique customs.  They are incredibly self sufficient, fierce and creative.  I came away from this exhibit inspired to explore these cultures with further research and fiction.

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