|A fine, old authentic Karahut / Kara-ut / Kara'ut figure
from the Abelam people, North of the Middle Sepik River, New Guinea (map further down on the page)
Provenance: Marc Assayag with Tookalook Native Arts
Photos: Marc Assayag
These "karahuts" are woven from hibiscus bark twine and sennit fibre, decorated with boar's tusks, small Nasa shells with applied ochre and
charcoal paints. Karahuts are used in a number of ceremonies, during dancing they are held between the teeth using a string coming out
from the back about the level of the eyes. When not being used they are hung around the neck and lie in the middle of the man's back or
worn around the neck as a pectoral adornment at sing sing's
Commonly known among the Abelam as a Kara-ut and in a differing form as Andakara by the Wosera people.
"The figure looks as if it has horns - this is a misconception. Wild pigs are very aggressive and the wearer of the kara-ut believes that when the
'horns' are spouting from his mouth he can adopt its power when fighting.
The woven figure depicted an enemy who dangles helplessly impaled on the pigs / fighters tusks.
The name of this art form, Kara means 'Pig or Boar' and Ut means 'net bag' has a significant spiritual context. Contained within the body of the
figure is a bundle of magical leaves & herbs that aid the wearer."
Source: Crispin Howarth -Tribal Melborne
|My other figure
|Karahut / Kara-ut / Kara'ut figure
from the Abelam people, North of the Middle Sepik River, New Guinea
Height x Width: 46 x 13 cm or 18 x 5 inches (including feathers)
Provenance: Angel and Joel with Tribal Collective, Australia
This piece was in the exhibition: "Native Arts of the World...At Home in Colorado - The Douglas Society Collects"
|An Abelam man wearing a costume called
"Notu" and holding a Karahut figure in his
mouth during the celebration of Yam
Festival in the Maprik area.
Photo source and additional information
from the South Pacific Art website
|A photo of an Abelam man with elaborate ritual
adornments holding a Karahut figure in his mouth.
A fantastic photo!!
|The examples below are not in my collection - they are for reference purposes and they are for sale from various galleries
|An example from Michael Auliso with
12.25 inches tall
|An example from Tribal Melborne Gallery
14 inches tall
|An example from the Chris Boylan Gallery
26 cm tall
|An example from Ten Directions Gallery
12 inches tall
|There are additional examples in the link below to the online exhibition:
We Shout to make it Silent...
from the Plattsburgh State Art Museum
Below are other examples from museums and books (I will be adding them as I come across them)
|Abelam peoples, Papua New Guinea
Ornament, Kara Ut
Fiber, boar tusk, shell, pigment
Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection
In the collection of the Indiana University Art Museum, 126.96.36.199
When attacking an enemy village, an Abelam warrior placed a kara ut in his mouth so that the
boar tusks appeared to grow out of his jaw. The boar is a symbol of bravery and aggression
for the Abelam, so wearing the ornament in this way was believed both to give courage to the
warrior and to frighten his enemy.
|The Abelam people live in the Prince Alexander Mountains north of the Middle Sepik River in New Guinea just south and east of Wewak
|Below is an interesting figure from the Abelam people I came across in my research.
|Female Figure, 19th–20th century
Papua New Guinea, East Sepik Province; Abelam people
Wood, paint; H. 42 1/2 in. (108 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1962 (1978.412.819)
In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
The Abelam people live in the Prince Alexander Mountains north of the Middle Sepik River in New Guinea. Artistic expression among the Abelam
centers around two cults: the wabi, involving the decoration and exchange of gigantic yams up to 12 feet (4 meters) in length; and the nggwalndu,
an eight-stage male initiation cycle that can take up to twenty years to complete. Abelam art finds its highest expression in the elaborate sculptures
created for the nggwalndu cycle. These painted wooden figures represent supernatural beings associated with the growth of yams and the
prosperity of individual clans.
Abelam art is not linked to an elaborate mythology but is primarily experiential in nature: meaning comes through participation not interpretation,
and is gradually revealed during the long initiation sequence and through the creation and display of ritual artworks. At each stage of the cycle,
initiates are shown elaborate displays of brightly polychromed figures constructed by the older men inside the ceremonial house. While the
initiation cycle is the domain of the men, it is often suffused with female imagery. The ceremonial house itself is seen as female and its interior
likened to the womb. At one stage, initiates are made to crawl through a low tunnel and emerge between the legs of a large female figure. While
somewhat smaller than other known examples, the figure in the Museum's collection probably occupied a similar position within the ceremonial
house. The figure displays the bold, volumetric style characteristic of early Abelam sculpture and would originally have been brightly painted with
earth pigments when in use.
|A couple of interesting photos showing how Karahut figures were traditionally used.