An Elema gope board, having red and black pigments and a central ancestor mask. Papuan Gulf. Papua New Guinea. Late 19th C. Ex Malcolm Davidson, Melbourne. 194.5cm long.
Gope boards are used to guard against evil spirits, sickness and death and are often carved from the enemy’s boats. They are consulted before a battle on which tribe to attack and they are thought to sap all the enemy’s strength. Warriors are awarded these for acts of bravery in battle.