Artist's cultural association:
Malakula (Malekula) Island region
Metaniele 1972 Description: with protruding eyes and nose and coloured with brown, grey and red ochres
Place made: Lendamboe Village, Malakula Island, Malampa Province, Vanuatu Melanesia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, wood, clay, ochre, fibre

Dimensions: 87.0 h x 80.0 w x 25.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased by J-M Charpentier on behalf of the CAAB
Accession No: NGA 71.207.157
  • These large circular plaques are connected to the initiation of young men, which includes the practice of circumcision. They are hung above the entrance to the Namal men’s house during the Nalawan secret society initiation events. The plaque has been over-modelled with vegetable clay, into a face with protruding eyes and a prominent nose that symbolises the penis. To each side of the face are birds which, according to Jean-Michel Charpentier [1], are linked to youth and life: birds transport the ghosts of ancestors to and from the village, and traps were created to attract birds, so that would bring back ancestor spirits to the village.
    Charpentier first sighted this Metaniele board in November 1972, but was unable to purchase it until a month later. These plaques are infrequently created today for circumcision ceremonies—a Metaniele was last used for a ceremony in 2001.[2]

    [1] J-M Charpentier, New Hebrides field collection 1972-73 card index, no.167, National Gallery of Australia.

    [2] Marcelin Abong, personal communication, May 2012.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2013

    From: Crispin Howarth Kastom: Art of Vanuatu National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2013