Cult hook figure "grababufa", "gra" or "garra"
Papua New Guinea - Hunstein Mountains, Bahinemo
|Robert van der Heijden, Amsterdam, The Netherlands||H: 36.2 inch||sold|
wood, red ochre, lime, base
The ethnologist Meinhard Schuster conducted extensive research in various areas of the Upper and Middle Sepik from 1965-67 together with his wife Gisela and the Basel student Christian Kaufmann.
They report that these hook figures of the Bahinemo are called "grababufa, abbreviated to "gra" (equivalent to Newton's "garra"). They have personal names, are individually owned and can be inherited. They are suspended from the roof purlins at the side of the cult house. They are usually considered to embody water spirits.
Like the hook figures ("yipwon") of the Yimam people, they formerly served as hunting helpers, their supernatural powers assisting in the capture of game. They also played a role in male initiation ceremonies.
All the "garra" (= "sacred items") of the Bahinemo are believed to have been originally created by "wimogu" and "igoshua", a mythical couple who is said to still live on a small island at the mouth of the April River.