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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Crocodile canoe prow

Crocodile canoe prow

20th century

On the Sepik River, canoes often look like crocodiles and transport people through their home waters to some of the world's largest salt- and freshwater crocodile populations. Living there, one becomes accustomed to seeing the crocodile's eyes, ears, and nostrils while its massive body is hidden under water. In this head, the teeth are set in jaws with muscles that are known to exert up to one ton of force, a sign of the "ruling reptiles" that survived the disaster that wiped out dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago. For Iatmul people, the river is their mother and a crocodile ancestor once carried Earth from the primeval occean up on its back to create their island home. Sitting in a canoe with this prow, people rode on the back of a powerful creature to merge with a river with its many relatives.
Wood and shell
7 3/4 x 39 x 16 in. (19.7 x 99.1 x 40.6cm)
Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company
Not currently on view

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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