Sculptures & Figures

Asmat traditional figurine

Traditional ancestor sculpture

The traditional ancestor (kawe) are only known in Central and Nordwest Asmat. They were made earlier in the context of the great cult that seems to feast during the construction of a new men's house. The carved figures represent certain deceased whom were once present in the flesh during the festival.  The figures can be presented as individuals or as a pairs of figures, such as mother and child, an ancestral mother and an ancestoral father, or copulating couple. The figures are always made of soft wood so they can begin to rot as soon as possible after the festival ends, as to suspend their supernatural powers.

Old traditional ancestor figures are in contrast to the modern characters. They are completely without a stand quite worked stand or rise as the big ancestor poles on a peg shelf.

They often contain references to the ritual head-hunting, whether in the form of trophy heads in the hands of the figures, or as hornbill's head or other head hunting symbols.

Asmat skulpture

Ancestor sculptures

They represent ancestors and are often made of hardwood. Sometimes they can be seen through the expansion of traditional forms of artistic development. Some have markings that represent scarifications or stress the body, skeletal structures and joints. The sculptures are made of soft wood painted white and the markings always red or black in color, while the hardwood sculptures never painted, but by the aging process are darkened.

Asmat figure

Asmat ajour work

(engl.) Ajourenarbeiten

They represent unique breakthrough innovations in the form of flat ironwood carvings. Ajour - the word is a French term for a breakthrough work. The motifs on these sculptures are complex and very delicate work. Under the influence of H. Peij the Becembub in the late fifties, were the inventors of this art form. Although some artists create the Becembub still Ajourskulpturen, these coarser work and do not reach the exquisite delicacy of the objects that were created between the fifties and eighties. Later, the Becembub developed breakthrough carved with realistic and mythological scenes, and the attractive storyboards.

Asmat panel


These are hardwood boards with relief-carved, traditional views and motives. The large planks provide ample surface area for artistic inspiration and is much greater than the traditionally carved surfaces. So the artists were able to easily transfer images and embellish them in a complicated manner. Panels were and still are in great demand among visitors and art lovers much. This continued interest is due to the constant innovation of the creative artist. The panels have proven to be one of the most successful developments in contemporary art of the Asmat. They are a favorite for many people. The Unir Sirau were under the influence of W. van Dongen of the originators of the panels. At first she did not stains the hardwood planks. During the late sixties were a few panels with the traditional colors of red, white and black paint, but only in the mid-eighties began Unir Sirau to use the method of mud staining that the surfaces of the panels stained dark brown or black. Contrast was created by working out dark areas, so that the natural light color of the wood came to the fore and created surprising and attractive pictures.