The majority of the National Gallery’s Melanesian art collection comes from Papua New Guinea. Works currently on display are from the Papuan Gulf, the Sepik River region and the island provinces of New Britain and New Ireland. The arts of Papua New Guinea are characterised by arresting and radically inventive sculptural forms executed with media sourced from the environment wood, feathers, shell and stone. Some art forms were used in daily life; some were created for festive events, while others hold deep cultural significance or possess profound spiritual associations.
Most of these works were created for traditional use, for community purposes better known today as kastom. Some were made during an era prior to any contact with, or knowledge of, the outside world. While many kastom practices stopped during the 20th century with the growth of globalization other indigenous kastom has remained part of the rich social and cultural fabric of Papua New Guinea through which the creation of impressive arts continue into the present day.