Title: Aripa Male Figure
Date: 19th to mid-20th century
Culture: probably Ewa
Cultural Region: Southern Sepik region
Medium: wood and traces of lime
55 x 8 7/16 x 2 3/16 in. (139.7 x 21.4 x 5.6 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Morton D. May
Object Number: 147:1975
Place of origin: East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
Current Location: Not On View
This male aripa figure is one of the famous pieces brought out from the Korewori caves in the early 1960s. The figures were placed there originally because their owner had died, or because they had lost their effectiveness in communicating with the spirits of ancestors. In the early 1950s the Ewa people who had been living in that region were decimated by disease and moved away from the caves. Some of the cave figures may be several hundred years old, whereas others appear to have been made more recently. Several long blade marks on the back of the leg suggest that this aripa figure was carved with steel tools, dating it after the 1880s. The caves were generally dry, but limestone in the water stained parts of this figure white.
- 1967
D'Arcy Galleries, New York, NY, USA

1967 - 1975
Morton D. May (1914-1983), St. Louis, MO, purchased from D'Arcy Galleries [1]

1975 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, given by Morton D. May [2]

[1] An invoice dated May 5, 1967 from D'Arcy Galleries to Morton D. May documents this purchase, listed as "#830 Cult figure, wood, deeply weathered surface / *from a cave in the Tangermas River area / New Guinea, Upper Karawari / 55" high / - has stand" [May Archives, Saint Louis Art Museum].

[2] A letter dated August 14, 1975 from Morton D. May to Mary-Edgar Patton, acting director of the Saint Louis Art Museum, includes the offer of this object as part of a larger donation [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Acquisitions Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, November 6, 1975.
Exhibition History
Title: Ritual Arts of the South Seas: The Morton D. May Collection
Date: August 22 – October 19, 1975
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: The Art of the Pacific Islands
Date: July 1 – October 14, 1979
Venue: National Gallery of Art
Publication History
Title: The Caves of Karawari
Year Published: 1968
Title: Oceanic Art
Year Published: 1997
Title: L'Art Océanien
Year Published: 1993
Title: The Art of the Pacific Islands
Author: Peter Gathercole
Author: Adrienne L. Kaeppler
Author: Douglas Newton
Title: Ritual Arts of the South Seas: The Morton D. May Collection
Year Published: 1975
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