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John Foster

Barkcloth Art of the Omie


Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art of the Ömie

The current exhibition at Cavin-Morris Gallery in NYC is exhibiting powerful, graphic works on barkcloth called nioge by the Ömie people of New Guinea.

Far from being decorative abstractions, these works concern themself on some level with the forces of nature. These works are similar to music with the Ömie people. The subjects come from the landscape, the inner poetics of inner and outer Place. The women sometimes refer to the images as their “wisdom”, and selectively reveal the intrinsic meanings to outsiders.

This can be expressed in one descriptive title of a barkcloth by Mala Nari; “Ömie Mountains, eggs of the dwarf cassowary, river stones, and tattoo designs of the bellybutton.” Nari had a deeply dramatic vision in 1996 that led to the revival of these never-forgotten designs and codifications of history and experience.

One of the earlier appreciators of the Ömie, Drusilla Modjeska, wrote: “When the alphabet of motifs can be named, it is absorbed in such a way that parts do not require naming. The iconography works not by being broken into separate elements, but by a complex patterning of sensations and image that is not translatable--a way of seeing that is affective as well as instructive.”

Most of the barkcloths on exhibit are created by the first generation of duvahe or chiefs of the Ömie as a way to remember, and in an effort to revive this imagery.

The exhibition is up through October 5, 2013. Shari Cavin or Mimi Kano will be happy to provide further information. 212-226-3768, or [email protected]


Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Sarah Ugibari - 2011
tamajai ohu’o deb’é - ancestral tattoo
design of the necklace with pandanus fibre string; Natural pigments on barkcloth; 46.06 x 22.44 inches

Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Sarah Ugibari - 2012 asimano’e soru’e
(vinohu’e, jö’o sor’e
ohu’o taigu taigu’e) men’s ancestral tattoo designs (design of the bellybutton, uncurling fern fronds and pattern of a leaf); Natural pigments on barkcloth; 51.77 x 28.74 inches
Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Sarah Ugibari - 2012 mododa’e diburi’e biojë’oho
tail-feathers of the swift when sitting in the tree; Natural pigments on barkcloth; 31.5 x 24.8 inches
Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Fate Savari (Isawdi) - 2012 hart’e (sabu deje,
nenyai, ije bi'weje, dubidubi’e, mi’ija’ahe ohu’o buborianö’e) ceremonial white shell pendant necklace; Natural pigments on barkcloth; 47.64 x 22.44 inches
Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Albert Sirimi (Nanati) - 2013 nuni’e, taigu taigu’e,
jubiri anö’e ohu’o
sabu ahe - design of the eye, jungle vine, design of the woven waistbelt and spots of the wood-boring grub; Natural pigments on barkcloth; 57.09 x 18.9 inches
Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Brenda Kesi (Ariré) - 2013 wo’ohohe - ground- burrowing spider; Natural pigments on barkcloth; 38.58 x 29.13 inches

Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Lila Warrimou 2012 (Misaso) - ije ridimë’e, mahuva'oje ohu’o
sabu deje - jungleladder, pig hoofprints and spots of the wood-boring grub; Natural pigments on barkcloth; 54.72 x 29.92 inches

Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Stella Üpia (Agisé) - 2013 si’hai’u’e ohu’o
dahoru’e - fruit of the
sihe tree and �-mie mountains; Natural pigments on barkcloth; 48.82 x 20.87 inches

Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Dapeni Jonevari 2013 (Mokokari) - butote’e
- spiderwebs; Natural pigments on barkcloth; 54.72 x 29.53 inches

Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Botha Kimmikimmi 2012 (Hirokiki) - dahoru’e, tuböre une,
buboriano’e, ohu’o sabu ahe - �-mie mountains, eggs of the Dwarf Cassowary, beaks of Blyth’s Hornbill and spots of the wood-boring grub; Natural pigments on barkcloth; 44.49 x 36.61 inches

Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Mala Nari (Matosi) - 2013 dahoru'e, tuböre une, munë'e ohu’o
vinohu’e – �-mie mountains, eggs of the Dwarf Cassowary, river stones and tattoo design of the bellybutton; Natural pigments on barkcloth; 34.25 x 32.28 inches

Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Jean-Mary Warrimou 2012 (Hujama) - vaguré -
fern leaves; Natural pigments on barkcloth; 58.66 x 36.61 inches

Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Pauline-Rose Hago 2013 (Derami) -
amurelavahe’e,
siha’e, sin’e sor’e (taigu taigu’e ohu’o jö’o sor’e) ohu’o sabu deje - �-mie face paint design for dancing, fruit of the sihe tree, tattoo design (pattern); Natural pigments on barkcloth; 53.54 x 21.06 inches
Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Linda-Grace Savari (Majaré) – 2013 mahudanö’e, mahu ane bios’e, hin’e baje ohu’o buborianö’e - pig’s tusks and teeth, fruit of the mustard plant and beaks of Blyth’s Hornbill; Natural pigments on barkcloth; 42.91 x 29.53 inches
Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Jessie Bujava (Kipora) 2012 - siha’e ohu’o
visuano’e - fruit of the
tree and teeth of the fish; Natural pigments on barkcloth; 51.57 x 26.77 inches
Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Installation View, Cavin-Morris Gallery, NYC

Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Installation View, Cavin-Morris Gallery, NYC

Volcanic Visions: Barkcloth Art
Installation View, Cavin-Morris Gallery, NYC


Posted in: Accidental Mysteries, Art, Culture

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