Figure of a spirit being was created by Tigoana, an esteemed mwane manira—a man of great carving ability, or master carver. Educated in carving by his father, Tigoana worked within a traditional economic system where a carver could earn wealth by taking commissioned work for specific objects, house posts, canoes, feast bowls and other items. He would have been paid in shell valuables and food for his work.
Tigoana spurned the use of excessive incised or inlaid surface decoration and relied more on composition of form. His work is readily identifiable through his preference for rounded forms over the rigid angularity evident in other Star Harbour sculpture.
Figure of a spirit being is Tigoana’s unique conceptualisation of an Adaro, a being with great supernatural power, after using its ability to transform into a physical form and become visible to men. It was believed that adaro travelled by sliding up and down upon rainbows. This work represents an adaro associated with the sea. It would have been kept in the all-important canoe-house, a place where the domains of men and spirit beings overlap.
The porpoises or, more likely, dolphins that replace the deity’s feet have a marked significance—he has control over the pods just as surely as he has control over his own movement. Dolphins were dreaded—to catch one rather than a bonito fish was an ominous sign, never an accidental occurrence, and meant that the unlucky fisherman was ceremonially unclean.
Chroniclers of the Spanish visit to Ulawa in 1568 recorded sighting people that were ‘devils with horns like those of goats’. This description could be applied to the unusual features of this sculpture’s head. The apparent horns resemble the wings of birds, referencing another sphere of an adaro’s control—the sky. Davenport described the cognitive processes of creativity for a Solomon Islands artist:
‘Ask an artist how he conceived of a particular sculpture, and he will answer that he dreamed of it. By this he (the artist) means that the creative dream was caused not by his own conscious and unconscious equipment alone, but by stimulation from a deity’. 
 R Kokonge, ‘The arts’ in H Laracy (ed), Ples blong yumi: Solomon Islands, the past four thousand years, Institute of Pacific Studies of the University of te South Pacific, Suva, Fiji. 1989. p 62.
 W Davenport, ‘Sculpture of the Eastern Solomons’ in C Jopling (ed), Art and aesthetics in primitive societies, Dutton & Co, New York, 1971. p 422.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Crispin Howarth with Deborah Waite Varilaku: Pacific arts from the Solomon Islands National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2011