Post Figure (poutokomanawa)
On View In:
Gallery 256
Artist:   Unknown  
Title:   Post Figure (poutokomanawa)  
Date:   c. 1840  
Medium:   Wood, paua shell  
Dimensions:   55 1/2 x 16 x 7 3/4 in. (141 x 40.6 x 19.7 cm) 51 3/8 in. (130.5 cm) (object part, bottom of foot to top of head)  
Credit Line:   Gift of Curtis Galleries, Inc.  
Location:   Gallery 256  

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.

Name:   Unknown  

Object Description  
Classification:   Sculpture  
Physical Description:   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  
Creation Place:   Oceania, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Hawkes Bay, ,  
Accession #:   2001.65a,b  
Owner:   The Minneapolis Institute of Arts