Rare Maori Whakairo statue to cross block at Sotheby's on September 16

A Maori Whakairo statue is expected to make $2m-2.7m in Sotheby's September 16 sale of the Frum collection of Oceanic art in Paris.

Maori figure standing
The Maori figure is one of only six freestanding examples

The piece is freestanding, one of only six such Maori statues known to exist and the only example not in an institution. It's thought to date to the early 19th century, prior to the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand.

The Maori were expert carvers but tended to carve totems, or work figures into the integral structures of buildings.

It has been posited that the carvings represent gods, although David Simmons and Ko Te Riria identify it in their book Maori Tattoo as bearing the name whakapakoko rakau.

They state it's thought to have been made as a "burial image for Hine Korako of Nga Herehere who died about 1830 and was buried in a cave on the Mahia Peninsula.

"She was ritually a man so has the tattoo appropriate to her [elevated] station in life", they add.

A memorial figure, known as an uli, originating from New Ireland off the coast of Papua New Guinea, is valued at $955,969-1.3m.

The work is of the ultra-rare selamlungin antelou category, where the larger figure holds a smaller one aloft.

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