Uli figure

DATE:
19th century
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE:
Wood, lime plaster, paint, shell, opercula, plant fiber
CLASSIFICATION:
Sculpture
DIMENSIONS:
Overall: 53 5/8 x 18 7/16 x 16 3/4 in. (136.208 x 46.83 x 42.54 cm)
DEPARTMENT:
Arts of the Pacific Islands
LOCATION:
Arts of the Pacific Islands - Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Level 3
CREDIT LINE:
Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund
OBJECT NUMBER:
1975.14

General Description

Stout figures with massive heads, stylized arms, and short legs were the focus of memorial ceremonies for important men in central New Ireland. Called uli, these sculptures have been described both as portraits of deceased village chiefs and ancestor figures. They were displayed in groups at the culmination of a year-long series of memorial feasts. Uli are hermaphroditic, having both a prominent phallus and breasts. They embody fertility and aggression simultaneously, suggesting at once the ability of women to procreate and the success of men in warfare.

The uli are cumulative sculptures with paint layered on lime plaster on wood. The pigmented valves of sea snails form eyes and plant fibers serve as a scraggly beard. Although many ceremonial sculptures were left to rot after their initial use, _uli _were kept in a secret place between ritual occasions, and fresh paint renewed fragile surfaces for the next ceremony.

Adapted from

DMA Label text.

Web Resources