The Sainsbury Centre catalogue describes this as “an exceptional sculpture of the Papuan hornbill”. It also details the problem of trying to interpret the combination of figures found in this carving “the relationship between the hornbill, frigate bird (on the back), two skeletal fish and prone human figure may have been interpretable in the original context of display, but no longer”.

It is thought that it formed part of a “mortuary or death boat” which was formed of “human and animal carvings mounted in a canoe which was displayed at the climax of Malagan rights”. According to the Australian Museum “Malagan refers to both the memorial ceremonies carried out after burial and mourning as well as the masks, figures and posts made for use in these ceremonies”. Something else that I learnt from this exercise!





My notes on the work are here Hornbill