carved wood, standing male figure; hair bound in a topknot; inlaid paua shell eyes; larger scale head, face adorned with tattooing; arms akimbo and large hands spread over abdomen; raised disc belly button; erect penis; raffia loin cloth in separate vitrine

Post Figure (poutokomanawa), c. 1840

Wood, paua shellexpand_more

Gift of Curtis Galleries, Inc.expand_more  2001.65a,b

G256expand_more

This post figure, called poutokomanawa, welcomed guests to a Maori communal house. It portrays an ancestor whose spiritual power infused the building. The unique tattoo pattern carved on his face identified him. Adorning the body with tattoos is an important art throughout Polynesia and Micronesia. Although its cultural significance and aesthetic qualities vary greatly, many groups value tattooing as a sign of personal and social identity. The figure's proportions represent Maori beliefs about the different types of energy residing in the human body: the head is scaled larger than life as it is considered the center of personal power, and the hands rest on the stomach to emphasize the life force that links spirits to humans.

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Poutokomanawa (#263)
Details
Title
Post Figure (poutokomanawa)
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2001.65a,b
Curator Approved

This record is from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator, so may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

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carved wood, standing male figure; hair bound in a topknot; inlaid paua shell eyes; larger scale head, face adorned with tattooing; arms akimbo and large hands spread over abdomen; raised disc belly button; erect penis; raffia loin cloth in separate vitrine