Lot: 62

Spirit board "gope" or "hohao", 19th century

Papua New Guinea - Golf, Era River Area

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Roger Budin, Geneva, Switzerland
Jean-Louis Picard, Drouot-Montaigne, Paris, 8 October 1991, lot 68
Henricus Simonis, Düsseldorf, Germany
Serge Schoffel, Brussels, Belgium
H: 53.1 inch 20000 EUR / 50000 EUR

wood, pigments, In longhouses we can find an abundance of spirit boards variously called "hohao", "kwoi", "gope" or "titi ebiha" stored in clan and family-owned cubicles. They were used for various purposes, e. g. the male initiation. Field collectors were told that the spirit of such boards would go into battle with the men who worshipped it - both protecting them and causing confusion amongst the enemy. The painting of the carved boards with red ochre confered "heat", menace, or dangerous power "imunu" on these objects, and the addition of skulls, and age itself, increased "imunu". Douglas Newton provides us with potentially the most telling account as to the spirit boards significance: "Early European visitors to Goaribari Island were met on shore by crowds of men waving palm branches (sign of piece) and gope". When faced with the arrival of the obviously bewildering power of the first Europeans, it was the "gope" board that they chose to hold in their hand when confronting this great unknown.


Schoffel, S., Baeke, V. et al., "Art en premier²", Brussels 2017, p. 78