Asmat Art Essay

The Asmat tribe is one of the most recognized primitive tribes in the world. The word “Asmat” itself is a synonym to cannibals, which is what this tribe is mainly known for. This tribe was brought to the attention of the world in 1961 when Michael Rockefeller (picture shown to the right), the son of New York governor at the time, Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, disappeared in Asmat territory while he was on an exhibition to collect art and information. Michael Rockefeller was never found or heard of ever again, everyone started believing that this tribe was still practicing cannibalism even though they denied such act at the time.

The Asmat tribe is located in the Southwestern part if New Guinea, a province of Indonesia. They have an estimated sixty-five thousand people in their tribe, and live in smaller villages of about two thousand people. The image provided to the left gives you an idea of where they are located. They live in a bamboo forest and wild sago toward the West. This tribe also lives together in a long house that they built themselves. This house is able to cater seven to ten families of the tribe, although everything is provided by the house each family is responsible for their own fireplace.

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Although years before this territory was prohibited the Asmat tribe has become much friendlier through these years, they even allow tourist to come into their territory, explore the Jungle as well as learning their tribe daily lives. The Asmat are extreme believers in the connection of nature and human, mainly trees. According to the Asmat tradition wood as a source of life and for that they have become worldwide recognized as well. Wood carving is fundamental to their culture as writing is to us. Like every tribe they also have creation story and theirs begin with a fgure named Fumeripits, who was the first wood carver.

Being so, he was very lonely according to their creation story he chopped wood down from the forest and started carving human-like figurines to keep him company. Once he created these figurines he noticed he need some type of beat so he carved a drum. Once he was done he started to beat the drum with a rhythm and this was when the figures started to become humans. To this day the Asmat community cherishes all fgurines and believes they are linked to their past ancestors. These fgurines are also used to worship their ancestors and ask them for good fortune The ancestral bis oles, image provided on the right.

Bis is another word for ancestors’ spirits. These poles are of the best known and recognized around the world as part of the Asmat impressive sculptures. They stand up to 8 meters tall which is equivalent to about 26 feet high. These outstanding sculptures are found mainly in centers of Asmat villages. They are carved out of a single piece of wood and they all have a wing on the top, all carved with a different pattern known as cemen. The figurines represent those who recently passed away. The bottom of the pole serves as canoe, which help he spirit of the dead into the afterworld.

These poles were sculpted to keep spirits of the recently deceased away from the village by holding the spirit. This tribe is also very well known for their shields and fgurines. The Asmat show their artistic abilities by creating this shield from a single piece of wood coming from a tree. These shields range from five to eight feet high. They are decorated by carving symbols that represent anytnlng tne creator 0T tne snle10 wants tnem to represent Trom Tlylng foxes and other things like a curved shell nosepiece that they wear by the tribe to ymbolize the tusks of a wild boar.

As part of their culture they use to carve the shield with bone and shells but today metal tools have replaced them now days. The shields are only decorated with three colors: white, black and a deep orange. The white represents the human spirit, black symbolizes the hair of the human body and the deep orange is used for an outline to separate black from white. The carving drawings of the shield are a fundamental part of the Asmat culture. It tells the story of each person. It also is believed that the spirits of the Asmat ancestors live within he carving they created and also influence the activities of the living.

The shields are also used in warfare and ceremonies. One of the most famous ceremonies the Asmat practiced was head-hunting. Today, head hunting is illegal. The significance behind the head hunting is to have revenge of their death by killing the enemy to equalize the order between the spirit and human worlds. Works cited 1 . http://www. asmat. de/en/240/277/O/88_art_-_ancestor_pole/index. html 2. http:// www. artsmia. org/education/teacher-resources/pnt-ob]ectinfocus. cfm? v=1 59 3. http:// www. luceartsandreligion. org/gallery/1998-1999/asmat. htm

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