Many collectors are familiar with the fishing canoe prows of the Depapre region of Tannah Merah Bay in West Papua – instantly recognisable by the large sea bird’s head at the top with a stylised arrangement of sharks and game fish below.
There is, however, one much rarer form which as far as I know is only carved in one village in the Depapre area on Tannah Merah Bay, the village of Wauna (Kampong Wauna in Indonesian). Wauna canoe prows have an extra element – the head of the fisherman, carved below the head of the bird and above the sharks and fish, as in this example. I do not believe that these human heads are in any sense a portrait of the canoe’s owner, but they are surely carved to add an extra level of protection for the owner and crew of the canoe. Size44 x 30 cm /17 x 12 inches.