Massim spatula, Trobriand Islands, Papua New-Guinea
Anthropomorphic Massim spatula by Le Maître(s) des “Yeux Proéminents”
Trobriand Islands, Papua New-Guinea
H. 33 cm
The Massim area is located in Southern-East New-Guinea, in the Milne Bay province, which include the Trobriand Islands. The anthropomorphic sculpture is quite exceptional in the Massim art, compared to the numerous ornamental one. Among several types of hand-carved objects, the lime spatulas are probably the most original ones, incised with stylized animals (birds head, snakes…), scrolls and curves. The blade is always flat, and the majority of decorations are carved on the handle.
The purpose of these lime spatulas is not always for its basic use, but some of them, such as the one we present here, are made for high-ranked people exchanges or are attributed to magical purposes of protection.
As it has already been studied in African art, recognizing some sculptures made from identified “Masters” ‘s hands (The Buli Master for instance), Harry Beran studied the whole corpus of Massim anthropomorphic spatulas and he defined a serie of different noticeable types.
Le Maître des “yeux proéminents” is certainly presenting ones of the most ancient and beautiful anthropomorphic figures. H. Beran identified a corpus of ten spatulas from this same hand, carved during the second half of the 19th century. Unlike the usual themes, there is a cubic dimension and a naturalism freedom, presenting stylized human faces and bodies. The eyes are embossed oval circles meanwhile in the Massim art the eyes are engraved but not specifically carved, explaining the name given to this Master.