Model Kayak


This model of a kayak was made by the Yup’ik people in the Kuskokwim River Valley of Alaska.  It was collected by Moravian missionaries who worked in the area beginning in the late 1880s.  The model kayak is made of seal hide stretched over a wooden framework.  Traditionally, a kayak was a Yup’ik hunter’s most prized possession and a symbol of manhood.  To help identify individual kayaks, men often added unique painted designs or modified the bow or stern shape of the boat.  The Yup’ik used kayaks for seal hunting, fishing, and general transportation.  This model kayak is currently on view in the new exhibit The Yup’ik Way of Life: An Alaskan People in Transition.

Heart Ex-Voto

This wooden carving from Canindé, Brazil, is known as an ex-votoHeart web
or milagre (Portuguese).  Canindé is an important pilgrimage site, particularly during the feast of St. Francis.  In areas with such strong traditions of petitioning God or saints for relief from troubles, religious pilgrims offer these objects in gratitude for their answered prayers, often for recovery from an illness or injury.    Ex-votos can take the form of paintings or sculptures made from a variety of materials including wood, cloth, or wax.  They often represent parts of the body that have been healed.  The petitioner in this case may have recovered from a heart attack or other cardiac ailment.  The MOA has more than 275 votive sculptures from Brazil in the permanent collection.

Ceremonial Flute

PNG FlutewebThis ceremonial flute is from the Mumeri Village in the Middle Sepik region of Papua New Guinea.  Papua New Guinea is home to one of the most diverse populations in the world with over 1,000 separate communities with their own customs and traditions and more than 800 languages spoken in an area slightly larger than California.

Mumeri Village is particularly noted for their handcrafted flutes which include elaborately designed wooden stoppers decorated with faces representing clan figures as well as totemic animal figures.  The stoppers are painted with clay or vegetable based pigments.  The sacred flutes are usually played in pairs during ceremonies and initiations.  The Mumeri people consider the low melodic tones to be the voices of the clan’s ancestor spirits.  Traditionally, women, children, and uninitiated boys are not allowed to see the flute being played.

Inuit Lithograph


This 1976 framed lithograph by Canadian Inuit artist Pitseolak Ashoona is titled “Memories of Childbirth.”  The print depicts a woman in labor supported by 3 other women on the left side and the woman post-labor holding her child on the right.  Pitseolak (1904-1983) did not begin working as an artist until later in life as a way to support her family after relocating to Cape Dorset on Baffin Island following her husband’s death.  Her artwork can also be found in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

House of the Head

House of the HeadBGwebThis Yoruba object from Nigeria is known as a house of the head, or ile ori.  The Yoruba believe that the head is the seat of a life force that determines a person’s essential nature and destiny.  The house of the head shrine is designed to contain a person’s inner spiritual essence.  It is the focus of rituals and offerings to ensure good fortune and an ideal fate.  The Museum’s house of the head is made of cloth embellished with colored glass beads.

The shrine is the featured object for this year’s Save Our Hide conservation fundraising drive.  Click here for more information on the Conservation Fund and how you can help!

Day of the Dead Sculptures


Papier-mâché sculpture is a popular Mexican folk art.  Skeleton figures like these are especially sought out for the Day of the Dead, and these pieces are currently on exhibit in Life After Death: The Day of the Dead in Mexico.  These figures represent Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.  The design is based on one of Kahlo’s paintings, shown at the bottom right of this photo.  The bases of the individual figures fit together to form a heart.  The sculptures were made by Felipe Linares Mendoza.  The Linares family is famous for their papier-mâché sculptures, and pieces of theirs are featured in museums around the world.