Lot: 139

98th Auction

Memorial figure for the dead "rambaramp"

Vanuatu, Southern Malakula

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Henri L. Schouten, Amsterdam, The Netherlands / Los Angeles, USA (1979) H: 38.2 inch sold

cane frame with vegetable-fiber paste overmodeling for the body, painted with black, white and red pigment, coiffure of spider webs, pubic apron of leaf fibre (pandanus), with acrylic display case

These "rambaramp" effigy figures are unique to the Vanuatu island of Malakula. The making of a figurine was a great honour, granted only to particularly deserving men of high social rank. It represents the climax on the ladder of a rank system established on Vanuatu, " the transformation of a deceased person into an ancestor".

The majority of "rambaramp" include the skull of the deceased they are intended to portray. In Vanuatu, the skull of an ancestor is considered to be the residing place of the soul and of decades of ritual learning and accrued wisdom.

The figures are idealised representations, not portraits in the sense of Western art. However, the identity of the figure is recognisable to the community by means of painted ornaments or jewellery.

Howarth, Crispin, Kastom, Art of Vanuatu, Canberra 2013, p. 109