Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Restons groupés.
Everybody stay together.
An eerie but very important collection of life-size funerary mannequins from Vanuatu, a South Pacific island nation, about 1,750 kilometers from Australia. This mid-20th century grouping is on display in the Oceania section at the Musée du Quai Branly, of which the name, by the way, is interchangeable with  Musée des Arts Premiers, Paris.

Only men of standing in the Small Namba tribe, located on the Malekula Island, had the right to have a "rambaramp" or funerary effigy made of themselves, which they ordered during their lifetimes. At their deaths, their skulls and long bones were used as the base to remodel their bodies and facial features, as faithfully as possible, using organic matter such as clay, rolled banana leaves, pieces of tree ferns, spider webs, feathers and natural pigments. Decorative ornaments indicated the social rank of the deceased. Once the funeral rituals were accomplished, the head of the mannequin was placed in front of his house, whereas the rest of the effigy was taken inside and left to decompose.

un rambaramp:  a male mortuary figure containing the skull of the deceased, formerly created by people of the Small Namba tribe on Malekula  
le défunt:  the deceased
un crâne:  a skull
la glaise:  clay

©2012 P.B. Lecron

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