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20th C. Tahitian Wood Figural Statue - Boy / Girl

Oceania, French Polynesia, Tahiti, ca. 1930s CE. A haunting figural wood carving of a crouched anthropomorphic figure with boy male and female characteristics. The figure's face seems divided between age (the deep furrows in the brow) and youth (the smooth contours around the mouth). The figure wears a large, multi-tiered collar with nails hammered into it to create a decorative motif. The figure has breasts and appears pregnant, with one hand over its distended belly; however, it also has a prominent phallus. The figure's limbs are tangled and bent, making them difficult to distinguish from one another without carefully following the lines of each. The figure also has very large ears and leans against a staff capped by a skull-like mask. The integral platform is shaped to look like twin hollow logs. Size: 9" W x 26.75" H (22.9 cm x 67.9 cm)

Tahitian wood carvings range from the abstract to the naturalistic, with fantastical version of the human body being a feature (see, for example, this two-headed being at the British Museum: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=493501&partId=1). These figures likely represent gods, spirits, or human ancestors; some were used for malevolent magic, whilst others were called upon by the community in times of need.

Condition: Wood has attained a rich, dark patina on surface, visible especially around the shoulder blades. One arm has a crack in it, as does one shoulder.

Provenance: private Newport Beach, California, USA collection

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