This lesson focuses on the art of the Gulf of Papua from the Island of New Guinea. Located along the southern coast of New Guinea, communities are built along the Fly River and its surrounding deltas and mangrove forest. Spirit boards or kópe depict individual ancestral spirits and are hung or placed inside of ceremonial houses. A carved spirit board is sacred, as communities believe the ancestors guide the carvers in their design. The board contains the spirit of the ancestor, allowing them to communicate with the spirit world through the object.
We will create our own spirit board to honor a person or an aspect of the natural world from our own life.
- Who or what will your spirit board honor from your life?
- Will your spirit board connect to nature, or to a person or a plant or animal that is important to you?
When we look at this kópe, or spirit board, the face of the spirit figure emerges from the center of the design. The design depicts features representing abdomen, navel, and other body parts as well as symbols of natural elements and the spirit world. One of the circles on the board is the navel or belly button. The navel represents the place where the spirit enters the board and connects the earthly realm and the spiritual realm.
Watch How To: Spirit Board Art-Making Inspired by our New Guinea Collection