Early 20th century, Malakula, Vanuatu
Collected & donated by Bernard Deacon, MAA 1927.2174
A funerary effigy of a prominent male ancestor, composed of his over-modelled skull attached to a wooden framework, covered with tree fern and a clay-like paste made of plant fibre. These figures embodied the status of the deceased, transferred their exalted position to the next world and prolonged the memory of their achievements.
The name of the man commemorated by this rambaramp is no longer known, but the designs on his beaded armlet indicate that he belonged to the ninew grade of the nimangki (a series of ranked ceremonial achievements). His high status is shown by the numerous pig’s tusk and turtle-shell armlets, as well as the elaborate shoulder projections of modelled human heads.
The public display of this body is also a reminder of the complex relations that exist between museums and members of communities of origin. Cambridge-based anthropologists have periodically worked in Malakula for nearly 100 years. Community approval to display this rambaramp was obtained in 2007 by a MAA curator during a collaborative project with the Malakula Cultural Centre.