Michel Rangie | Vanuatu b.c.1950 | Mague ne sagran (ranking black palm) grade 4 | painted c.2005 | Carved black palm with synthetic polymer paint | 250 x 38 x 50cm | Acc. 2008.363 | Gift of David Baker through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2008
Mague ne sagran (ranking black palm) grade 4 painted c.2005
Spectacular figurative sculptures created as part of the male initiation ceremonies, known as mague, play an important role in the contemporary articulation of kastom (customary government, law and religion) on the Vanuatu island of Ambrym. Mague is a hierarchical series of initiations, through which men are able to achieve successively higher levels of status and authority within the community. Each mague level or grade, paid for with pigs and other valuables, is marked by ceremony and the creation of a palm sculpture which is installed within the nazara (ceremonial dancing ground). Designed to impress, the sculptures are created with features and patterns relating to the grade undertaken. Whilst the optically forceful patterns are drawn from an established repertoire that artists who have earned or inherited the copyright are able to use, continued innovations in colour, materials and design ensure that this art form remains dynamic.