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ART OF THE Ă–MIE Barkcloth Paintings from Papua New Guinea

USA Exhibition Catalog 2012 Harvey Art Projects USA


ÖMIE ARTISTS is a cooperative of Ömie tribeswomen barkcloth painters from Oro Province in Papua New Guinea. Barkcloth is the traditional textile of the Ömie tribe. Women wear nioge (skirts) while men wear givai (loincloths). Barkcloth serves important purposes in marriage, funerary and initiation ceremonies as well as being an integral part of everyday life. Ömie barkcloths are still worn today by men, women and children during traditional ceremonies which can involve feasting and spectacular performances of singing, dancing and kundu-drumming. Barkcloth is so important to the Ömie that one of the key events in their creation story details how the first woman, Suja, beat the first barkcloth. Nioge have been produced by Ömie women for gallery exhibitions since the cooperative was founded in 2004. Women prepare the barkcloth by harvesting the inner layer of bark (the phloem) of rainforest trees which they rinse and dry and then fold and pound repetitiously on flat stones until a strong, fibrous sheet of cloth is produced. The cloth is then left to cure in the sun. Red, yellow, green and black natural pigments are created from fruits, ferns, leaves and charcoal. Ancient clan designs are painted in freehand onto the cloth or the cloth is dyed in river mud and the designs are appliquéd. Common painting implements include strong grasses, fashioned wooden sticks and frayed betelnut husks. Artists inherit clan designs as young women by birthright or marriage from their mothers, grandmothers and mother-in-laws, and in some instances from their fathers and husbands. Most designs are generations old but some elderly artists, usually Chiefs, are free to paint their uehorëro (wisdom), creating new designs. The Ömie’s female Chief system is primarily based upon a woman’s barkcloth painting talents and the cultural knowledge she attains over a lifetime. All painting designs originate or are derived from traditional Ömie culture and the natural environment, maintaining and communicating artists’ deep connection to their ancestors and country. Ömie territory’s lush rainforests, wild rivers, fauna, elemental phenomena and sacred creation sites such as the volcano Huvaemo and Mount Obo provide a plethora of subjects from which artists continue to draw inspiration for their painting designs. Certain designs serve the important purpose of upholding jagor’e, customary Ömie law, passing on essential knowledge such as taboos and educating the next generation about how to protect and preserve sacred sites. In 1951 Huvaemo erupted which correlated with the coming of the first missionaries who banned the ancient initiation rite known as the ujawé that involved tattooing clan insignia (sor’e) onto the skin. The Dahorurajé clan Chiefs Warrimou and Nogi believed the eruption was a warning from their ancestors’ spirits that reside on Huvaemo – a warning that the old ways were being lost and that they must turn away from the outsiders and hold onto their traditional culture. In order to appease the ancestors, the Chiefs spread the word throughout the tribe, encouraging the women to paint both men and women’s tattoo designs onto the barkcloth. And so triumphantly, the Ömie have managed to preserve their tattoo designs through the women’s strong barkcloth painting tradition. Ömie Artists is fully owned and governed by Ömie people. Five Art Centres service artists across twelve villages and each of the centres play a vital role by ensuring that the ancient tradition of barkcloth painting as well as traditional culture remain strong and by providing economic returns to their artists. Income generated from sales allows artists and their families access to essential services such as hospitals and secondary schools, and necessities such as medicine, clothes and tools for building houses, hunting and subsistence farming that are otherwise unavailable to them in their remote homelands. Ömie Artists’ Manager works closely with a Committee of Art Centre Coordinators to facilitate sustainable production and ethical sales of artists’ works and to protect the rights of the artists. The Manager and Committee also work in close consultation with Chiefs and elders to ensure that traditional clan copyright laws are upheld and cultural information is verified before distribution. Since the first exhibition in 2006 the barkcloth art of the Ömie women has been highly celebrated, culminating in the National Gallery of Victoria’s landmark exhibition Wisdom of the Mountain: Art of the Ömie in 2009. Artists have also been included in major exhibitions such as Cloth That Grows on Trees at the Textile Museum of Canada in 2007; 17th Biennale of Sydney at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2010; Paperskin: The Art of Tapa Cloth at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in 2010; and Second Skins: Painted Barkcloth from New Guinea and Central Africa at the Fowler Museum at UCLA in 2012. Significant collections of Ömie art are held in both public and private collections including the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Australia, Queensland Art Gallery and the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Harvey Art projects USA is proud to partner with Ömie Artists in representing this extraordinary group of women artists in the USA for this first time selling exhibition.


“I produce barkcloth art to show the world the strength of Ömie culture.” - Sarah Ugibari, 2010

1. Sarah Ugibari, mododa'e diburi'e hijë'oho (tail-feathers of the swift in flight) 112 x 87cm, appliquéd mud-dyed barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-134


2. Sarah Ugibari, mododa’e diburi’e biojë’oho (tail-feathers of the swift when sitting in a tree) 92 x 82cm, appliquéd muddyed barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-135


3. Fate Savari (Isawdi), vinöhu'e, taigu taigu'e, jö'o sor'e ohu'o gori hane (tattoo design of the bellybutton, pattern of a leaf uncurling fern fronds and Dahorurajé clan design of the fern leaf), 79 x 57cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 10-055


4. Fate Savari (Isawdi), mwe (or’e, moköjö bineb’e, sabu deje, dewolor’e, ije bi'weje, buborianö’e, mi’ija’ahe, dubidubi’e ohu’o aréro ajivé) – gardens (with garden pathways, chest feathers of the red parrot, spots of the wood-boring grub, rope used around ankles to climb trees, boys chopping tree branches, beaks of Blyth’s Hornbill, tailbone of the wallaby, small white plants that grow on mountaintops and daybreak), 145 x 81cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-136


5. Fate Savari (Isawdi), hart’e, - ceremonial white shell pendant necklace (with spots of the wood-boring grub, daybreak, women’s white seashell forehead adornment, boys chopping tree branches, small white plants that grow on mountaintops, chest feathers of the red parrot, tailbone of the wallaby and beaks of Blyth’s Hornbill), 122 x 81cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-137


6. Fate Savari (Isawdi), Insa and the Wedding Gift, 86 x 67cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ă–mie catalog # 11-138


7. Brenda Kesi (Ariré), wo’ohohe (ground-burrowing spider), 116 x 80cm, appliquéd mud-dyed barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-139


8. Brenda Kesi (Ariré), honé han’e (leaves of the bamboo), 93 x 67cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-081


9. Lila Warrimou (Misaso), hartu’e ohu’o sabu deje (design of the ceremonial shell necklace and spots of the wood-boring grub), 97 x 79cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-140


10. Botha Kimmikimmi (Hirokiki), dahoru’e, tuböre une ohu’o sabu ahe (Ömie mountains, eggs of the Dwarf Cassowary and spots of the wood-boring grub), 121 x 114cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-141


11. Dapeni Jonevari (Mokokari), dahoru’e, tuböre une ohu’o sabu ahe (pig's tusk necklaces, Ömie mountains and spots of the wood-boring grub), 130 x 82cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-105


12. Dapeni Jonevari (Mokokari), butote’e, dahoru’e ohu’o buborianö'e (spiderwebs, Ömie mountains and beaks of Blyth’s Hornbill), 154.5 x 72.5cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-142


13. Jean-Mary Warrimou (Hujama), vagurĂŠ (fern leaves), 114.5 x 106cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ă–mie catalog # 11-011


14. Jean-Mary Warrimou (Hujama), sodirejĂŠ (rocks forming at the volcanic headwaters of the Girua River) 161 x 68cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ă–mie catalog # 11-144


15. Linda-Grace Savari (Majaré), mahudanö’e, mahu ane bios’e, hin’e baje ohu’o nyoni han’e (pig’s tusks and teeth, fruit of the mustard plant and fern leaves), 142 x 93cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-131


16. Linda-Grace Savari (Majaré), jö’o sor’e, nyoni béhwe ohu’o buborianö’e (uncurling fern fronds, bristles of the fern stem and beaks of Blyth’s Hornbill), 141 x 95cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-132


17. Flora Oviro (Anu), nuni’e (design of the eye), 118 x 90.5cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-123


18. Flora Oviro (Anu), vahuhu sine (skin of the yellow snake), 122 x 77.5cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ă–mie catalog # 11-125


19. Mala Nari (Matosi), tubĂśre une (eggs of the Dwarf Cassowary), 117 x 90cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ă–mie catalog # 11-120


20. Pauline-Rose Hago (Derami), vë’i ija ahe - bone of the lizard (beaks of the black parrot, teeth of the fish, fruit of the sihe tree and spots of the wood-boring grub), 133 x 93cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-147


21. Martha-Jean Uhamo (Dogarine), misai (clan emblem of the river plant), 130 x 104cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ă–mie catalog # 11-133


22. Nerry Keme (Namuno), soru’e – ancestral tattoo designs (fruit of the sihe tree, pattern of a leaf and uncurling fern fronds) 168 x 83cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-148


23. Jessie Bujava, siha’e ohu’o visuano’e (fruit of the tree and teeth of the fish), 108 x 60cm, natural pigments on barkcloth, Ömie catalog # 11-143


Sarah Ugibari Lila Warrimou (Misaso) Jean-Mary Warrimou (Hujama) Mala Nari (Matosi)

Fate Savari (Isawdi) Botha Kimmikimmi (Hirokiki) Linda-Grace Savari (Majaré) Martha-Jean Uhamo (Dogarine) Jessie Bujava

Brenda Kesi (Ariré), Dapeni Jonevari (Mokokari) Flora Oviro (Anu) Nerry Keme (Namuno)

Harvey art Projects USA gratefully acknowledges the participating Ömie women artists of Papua New Guinea & Artists Manager Mr. Brennan King in mounting this special USA exhibit. Exhibit runs Aug 3 – Sep 9, 2012 Sun Valley USA Inquires info@harveyartpojects.com

All images kindly reproduced with permission of Ömie Artists.

Omie Women Artists of Papua New Guinea USA 2012  

ÖMIE ARTISTS is a cooperative of Ömie tribeswomen barkcloth painters from Mt. Lamington in Oro Province, Papua New Guinea. Barkcloth is the...

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