Papuan Gulf Art—Materials, Techniques and Artists Papuan Gulf Art Materials, Techniques and Artists By Thomas Schultze-Westrum The following essay is a description of the materials, tools and techniques used by the Papuan Gulf artists in the Kerewo, Gope, Urama and Era-Kipaia ethnic districts that I studied on my extended trips to the area between 1959 and 1974. I use the term kópe to refer to the spirit boards often referred to as gópe. Materials Wood, bark, cane, gourds and dwarf coconuts were the native materials for making art objects in the Papuan Gulf. For painted decorations, red, white and black were the primary colors used, while occasionally ochre, yellow and pink were seen. Red paint, wére (Kerewo language), was prepared by heating clay over the fire in a ceramic pot, úro (Motu language), and then mixing with water. The red color was also made from berries of an introduced shrub species also named wére. At Omaumere (Urama language) I was told that the red clay paint, hépu, was traded from the inland Kairi people. On the Wai’i River, people collected yellow clay (Kerewo word for yellow: dudúne). White paint, ámea, originates from lime made of burnt seashells, ikà. Black, wíbu, was made from the charcoal of a very soft and lightwood also known as wíbu. Shiny black paint was obtained from the fruit waria. Kópe spirit boards were repainted occasionally, and in recent times, mostly with trade colors. Bush string (íwi or odóiwi) is made of rattan. The flexible stem is spliced to get stronger or finer varieties. Usually the teeth are used to split the stem. Decorated objects were further adorned by attachments: feathers of various birds including cockatoo birds, imúo baia, marine Conus shells, bidi-bidi, and shells (general term) ikà, Coix seeds, Job’s tears and dog teeth, naía. Bush string, íwi or odóiwi (was used in different qualities, from very fine to coarse and strong. Either the entire vine was used (rattan) or the stem was split and strips made of the inner layer of bark (the origin of the latter was identified as species of Althoffia, family Tiliaceae). Drum membranes were made of snakeskin, kipítu or kepúsu—Acrochordus, mostly from the Turama River area, or of lizard skin túa—Varanus species. Glue or resin (Veraibari informants: amaí or buniò) was used for fixing the membrane to the drum’s resonant body; pellets of wax, guhì, were attached to the skin for tuning. A striking characteristic for the making of art in the Papuan Gulf was the use of materials previously having a different function, such as using sections from the hulls of old canoes in the making of kópe boards or the use of found objects and maintaining their naturally given structure—such as when branches of mangrove were made into spirit effigies with only minimal further shaping and decoration to give them an anthropomorphic or zoomorphic appearance. Douglas Newton (1961) introduced the term “objets trouvés” for these “root figures.” Male kakáme Goróa Female kakáme Maimáuo from the former longhouse (dúbu wéneh) Daubai at Kinomere Village, Urama ethnic district. Not all areas used old canoes in the making of kópe. I was told at Goare (Kerewo ethnic district) by the native LMS pastor Maida (himself a Kerewo native) with other men attending that wood from the hull of old canoes was never used for making titi ébiha and kaiaímunu board-shaped effigies. Some titi ébiha boards of the Kerewo people are too large to be made from canoes anyway; for instance, the oldest collected titi ébiha “Mobei” is almost 2.50 m high and its surface is completely flat, not curved like the hull of a canoe. Susanne Schultze-Westrum standing next to Titi ébiha Mobei from Aimahe Village, Kerewo ethnic district, 8’ 1 ¾“ (248.3 cm) in height, Munich 1971/2. The two kópe of unusual size collected at Wowobo are made of broad boards cut from very large inland forest trees; the larger one still has remnants of bark on its backside. The following kinds of wood were used for making canoes and kópe boards: diómo; éni or áni; búnio (Pterocarpus indicus, family Leguminosae); ibóa or ibúa (Octomeles sumatranum, family Datiscaceae), recorded in Iwaino-speaking villages of Urama Island. Bunio is the name of a kind of wood used for making Kerewo titi ébiha and kaiaímunu (there may be more species). Kópe of unusual size, 8’ 5 1/8“ (257 cm) in height from Wowobo Village, Gope ethnic district, made from a board-shaped root of a very large rainforest tree from the hinterland of the Delta. Again this kópe from Wowobo was cut from the base of a large rainforest tree. For bióma, wood of canoes was used, such as diómo and ibóa or ibúa (again Iwaino language subgroup). Informants mentioned that the wood for bióma was taken in the process of making a new canoe, not out of old canoe hulls. The very hard wood of bullroarers was taken from é-ere or né-ere (Gauri village, Iwaino language subgroup) or aíbi trees (Omaumere village, also Iwaino). The same hardwood, aibi, is also used for making paddles. In the villages of Tetehui and Epegau on Wapo Creek (Gope ethnic district) kópe are frequently made of the thick bark of trees (diómo). We also collected several kópe made of bark in other villages of the Gope area. Kópe made of wood and bark at the Wapo/Wai'i River, Gope ethnic district. The bark for belts was taken from kúru trees (Kerewo language subgroup). At Meagoma (Gope language subgroup) the term gawó-o was given for this bark used in making belts. Techniques For shaping the kópe boards and for making titi (designs) on the kópe and other decorated objects, the following tools were mentioned by informants in the Kerewo, Urama and Gope ethnic districts: A wooden blade with handle, éa-kaia, made of very hard palm wood, tabéna—the edges were kept sharp by scraping with seashell, ikà. Chisels (Kerewo: hóro; Gope: túbu) most frequently were made of cassowary bone (wía hóro, diwáre hóro), with a broad cutting edge kept sharp by scraping with seashell. Also a crocodile bone chisel may be used, híba hóro. A piece of light green colored stone, without a handle, túbu kaía, was also used as a chisel—it was brought all the way from Paráma Island (Fly River estuary) on the historic migration to Tetehui village (Gope ethnic district). Shards of obsidian were used as scrapers—the shards were obtained by hitting a larger piece with an axe. A hammer of wood (Kerewo: gámeni; Gope: kuku). I noted also at Gipi village the term kamáe, to be used together with a chisel. Seashell, ikà, was the most commonly used scraper, with and without a handle. Shark tooth, óme giri, with a short handle was employed for making incisions. Boar’s tusk, kóa or bómu giri, was used by itself, without a handle for scraping off chips of wood (Fig. 9). At Ero village (Aird Hills, Porome language speakers) a boar’s tusk was used to scrape the surface of a wooden bowl. Knives of sago skin (ea'kére in the Gope ethnic district) and bamboo. Paint brushes made of coconut husk (Kerewo: ehéno; Urama: búmi). Containers of halved coconut shells for paints (Kerewo: kúnu kunu or úka). Rasps made of ray skin attached to a rounded piece of wood (Urama: háma) for smoothing the surface of coconut spoons, bowls and other items of daily use. Demonstration of scraping technique with mussel shell (íka). Demonstration of using a boar's tusk (bómu gíri). The term “carving” implies a method or technique not practiced in traditional times. Metal from shipwrecks or obtained through trade links was used prior to the arrival of white people. In former times, before contact, they found long nails in the sand and sharpened them to use as a chisel (information from informants in the Kerewo ethnic district). So again metal tools, for instance nails, were used in the traditional technique as chisels and scrapers, rather than for cutting into the wood as a carver does. Only after imported tools were readily available were the traditional instruments and the techniques of making art objects abandoned altogether. There are distinct differences between the rounded and “soft” edges of relief decorations made by traditional tools and the rather sharp and straight cut edges left from metal tools (see Figs. 10–13 for a close-up of kópe design as made by traditional tools and Fig. 14 by metal). Section of very old kópe demontrating the use of non-metal tools. Gope and Urama ethnic districts. The edges of design are scraped and softly rounded; not cut with a sharp tool. Section of very old kópe demontrating the use of non-metal tools. Gope and Urama ethnic districts. The edges of design are scraped and softly rounded; not cut with a sharp tool. Section of very old kópe demontrating the use of non-metal tools. Gope and Urama ethnic districts. The edges of design are scraped and softly rounded; not cut with a sharp tool. Section of very old kópe demontrating the use of non-metal tools. Gope and Urama ethnic districts. The edges of design are scraped and softly rounded; not cut with a sharp tool. This kópe from the Era River district shows the rather coarse pattern of metal tool use. Making kópe While I did not gather information on the making of figures in the round, I do have the detailed information about making the board-shaped ceremonial objects, mainly the kópe. As previously mentioned, the wood was mostly taken from canoes, usually the canoes captured from distinct communities in hostile encounters (according to Maiomo of Meagoma village, only the canoes of slain victims). Stone adzes, tápe, were applied for shaping the hulls of canoes (Fig. 15). The term for axe is aiápe (Gope ethnic district). Making canoes with metal adzes. Gihiteri Village, Omati River. 1959. The backsides of kópe boards are usually smooth or show only a slight pattern of treatment by adze (Fig. 16). There are exceptions; a kópe from Tovei/Omaumere on Urama Island, illustrated in this catalog, shows a surface pattern of prominent (probably) stone adze cuttings (Fig. 17). The rather smooth backside of an old kópe made from the hull of a canoe. The markings refer to the number and variety of shells of a bride price. Probably Meagoma Village, Gope ethnic district. Backside of kópe from Omaumere Village, Urama ethnic district. The marked chip pattern indicates the use of a adze-type tool. For the making of a kópe, first the shape of the board was cut by a wooden blade (not by axe or adze, according to Maiomo and other senior informants at Karati village compound, Gope ethnic district). The backside was left as it was from the canoe hull (the inner side of the canoe) or further worked by a stone adze. If the front or back needed smoothing it was scraped by a seashell. After these preparations the entire surface of the side to be decorated was painted over with light grey mud. Then, with the shark-tooth tool, the wood was incised along the lines of the intended decorative patterns (a vertically held seashell, ikà, was often used for making incisions). The first design applied is that of the eyes (Iwaino: ídomai). A boar’s tusk is then used for cutting off chips of wood in the circumscribed or recessed areas to bring out the motif in relief. It should be noted that a chisel of cassowary, less frequently of crocodile bone, with a hammer could also be used. The carved areas are then scraped and smoothed by seashell, ikà, or—less frequently—by a sharp stone flake. Once the board and the design have been shaped, the paints are applied by brush in a set order: first the white paint, then red, and at last, black. The paints were prepared in coconut shell halves. Also I have heard of a fragment from a prehistoric mortar being used (coll. E. A. Hall). Red paint was heated over the fire before water was added. According to Maiomo and Arugu at Meagoma village, only a close relative, múdu ábea, not the carver, does the painting. Asked about the amount of time it took to finish a kópe, one informant indicated seven months (the others just pointed out that it took a long time). At Karati village compound (Gope ethnic district), Maiomo and Arugu explained that new kópe were made for women at marriage. The married woman provided food for the artist—often an old man who never left the longhouse. None of my informants could remember any transfer or exchange of kópe to other villages, only kópe taken in raids that were then incorporated into their own longhouse, áwae (examples being Ubuo and Mirimairau). Artists In early times only a few men made kópe—those known as ewéra mére (skilled men). The artist goes by memory, “the design he saw” or copies an existing board in disrepair. When he starts carving a little feast is prepared. When the work is finished there is a big feast (seven men participating in the dialogue, translation Isaia Amua). The ewéra mére made kópe for themselves and for other people, usually of their own clan (gu)—but not exclusively. While the Gulf artists had no particular defined authority because of their skills, they were still often remembered over many generations. Certain artists were remembered as personalities from the times of early migration. One can view them as historic mediators between the spirits and the people because their work brings the spirits from the bush or the sea into the ceremonial longhouse through the spirit objects they created. For effigies with an outstanding history and spiritual power, village elders gave the piece both a personal name and the name of the artist. Some of my informants, for instance the old men Dápu, Nee’a, Górme, Koréu and Baiáu at Gauri village, noted that the names of kópe were not human names. On several occasions highly regarded kópe were called méa kópe (good or beautiful kópe). The names Iómu and Ibúmai were recurrent for very old kópe and in the Kerewo ethnic district, important titi ébiha effigies had been given recurrent names: Móbei and Bayáu.