Gope Board - Papuan Gulf - Papua New Guinea
Gope Boards are wooden ritual objects made in the Papuan Gulf of New Guinea. They represent spirits which can protect clans from sickness, evil spirits, and death.
Small unnamed gope boards are often given to uninitiated boys, and a full size board is made by the uncle of a boy for his initiation ceremony. Also, warriors are awarded gope boards for each act of bravery they perform in battle Such boards are often made from the enemy's canoe. These gope boards vary in size, but can be up to six feet long and have a consistent elliptical shape. They are carved in relief and then painted with lime (white), red ochre, and other native plants. Most gope boards have a similar style and depict the face of an ancestral spirit.
Gope boards are also used in raids on other clans and headhunting missions. they are consulted as to which enemy to attack, and the spirits contained in the boards are thought to go ahead of the warriors to sap the enemies of their strength. They are also used to display skulls won in battle.
This gope board dates from the early 20th Century. It measures 47" tall, 12.5" wide, 1" deep, and comes mounted on a custom made stand.