Three wooden figures from the Andaman islands, circa 1880

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Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 12.37.08.png

Three wooden figures from the Andaman islands, circa 1880

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A group of three fishermen made of dark wood carved in the form of a man and two women standing on square pedestal bases. The pair of smaller figures, which retain their original clothing, portray a smiling female figure carrying sticks wearing a little skirt. She is holding a piece of string with a fish dangling from it. The second figure is holding a stick in either hand and wears a skirt. The larger figure has a painted red loincloth.

Condition: Good

Provenance: Private collection in the UK

Measurements: Figure 19.7 in (50 cm). Two smaller figures 13 in (33 cm) each.

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The Andaman Islands form an archipelago of more than 300 islands in the Bay of Bengal between India, to the west, and Myanmar, to the north and east. The name Andaman most likely is derived from the name of the monkey god of Hindu mythology, Hanuman. North, Middle and South Andaman, known collectively as Great Andaman are the main islands. They are home to the only known Paleolithic people, the Sentinelese people, who have had no contact with any other people.

Situated on the ancient trade route between India and Myanmar, the Andamans were visited by the navy of the English East India Company in 1789, and in 1872 they were linked administratively by the British to the Nicobar Islands. The two sets of islands became a union territory of the Republic of India in 1956.

Carpentry and woodwork are native to the Andamans and the inhabitants make furniture, human or animal figures out of ornamental woods such as Padauk, Marble wood, Chooi, Silver Grey and Kokko. They also make beautiful table tops from Padauk wood.

“You will find big figures, cut in wood in natural size, in the middle of the floor representing men in European dress. They do not worship idols but still they like to have images of all sorts about the house. As a rule, one or two figures are tied to the roof and hang down about five feet from the floor.” (Vocabulary of Dialects Spoken in the Nicobar and Andaman Isles by Frederik Adolph de Roepstorff, published in 1875).