Skip to main content

Uli Statue, Ancestor Figure

18th-19th century

Uli, from the north of New Ireland in Melanesia, are large figures regarded as vessels of the power of the clan’s ancestors. They were displayed during the burials of great warrior chiefs and played a central role in the accompanying rites. Between two deaths, the sculptures were venerated and jealously preserved in the men’s house. These powerful and terrifying ancestors did not represent a particular warrior but the essence of the clan they protected, whose social standing they endorsed. The attributes of power, procreation and death are all encapsulated in one body. The male attributes represent the physical strength with which the figure protects the clan and the breast its responsibility to feed the clan and ensure fertility. The sculpture is therefore the image of the clan, each organ of which plays a precise part in the smooth functioning of the whole. The production and worship of these sculptures appear to have ceased early in the 20th century with colonisation.

Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi/ Photo: Thierry Ollivier

Artwork Details

Title: Uli Statue, Ancestor Figure
Geography: New Ireland, Papua New Guinea
Date: 18th-19th century

Medium: painted wood

Classification: cult item
Dimensions: H. 126 cm
Inventory number: LAD 2014.035
Contact for images: [email protected]


Mobile View None For an optimal experience please
rotate your device to portrait mode