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Door lintel (pare) from a house
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Religious images have been made in many different materials, but those in perishable materials such as wood may not survive across the centuries. This wooden carving is the lintel (pare in Maori) from above the door of a small house. The image is thought to represent Papatuanuka, the Earth Mother, giving birth to the principal gods. Another interpretation is that it depicts Hinenuitepo, the goddess of death, defeating the demigod Maui as he attempts to gain immortality for mankind.

The central figure in such images is usually depicted as female, but in this case the genital area has been carved with a face mask. The figure is flanked by outward-facing manaia - a motif in which the body is often depicted in profile. The three figures have inlaid pearl shell eyes, and the area between them is carved with smaller figures, loops and spirals.

Door lintel (pare) from a house

From the Poverty Bay area, New Zealand, AD 1800-20
W. 98 cm
Gift of Sir George Grey

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