This late 20th century Temar Society ancestor figure is proof that kastom life still flourishes in North Ambrym. It is a large male figure with shell eyes and a large boar’s tusk on either side of the mouth and is sculpted from bush fibres and clay and painted in natural pigments. It has wooden hands and feet. It was made by initiated members of the family of Mansak in Ranpupubre village.
Its dimensions are 87 x 36 cm / 34 x 14 inches and it comes on a custom made stand which fits into a socket and enables it to be turned.
The Temar ancestor society of North Ambrym is a powerful cult who’s membership is restricted to adults over 25 who must endure an arduous initiation to join. Its main functions are to pass on magical knowledge and to make sculptures of the spirits of the forefathers. It was so secretive that neither its existence nor a single artwork produced under its authority was noted by Speiser on his epic 1910 - 1912 field collecting expedition through Vanuatu. The only other temar-like figure commonly illustrated in standard reference works on the art of Vanuatu is a small figure identified as a Luan in the British Museum Collection. This is interesting since here are three grades within the Temar, of which the highest is Temar ne Luan, an obvious correlation to the Nelawan rituals of Malekula.
Provenance: This artwork was field collected by the late David Baker and was previously exhibited as #V38 at the “Art of Ambrym, Vanuatu” exhibition at Annandale Galleries, Sydney in 2008. A copy of the exhibition brochure, which contains interesting background material and photographs of many of the major pieces, will be included at no extra cost.