The clients of our Florida interior decorating firm have a wide range of tastes and interests. We recently worked with a customer who liked to decorate with collectible artifacts from native peoples. We thus had the opportunity to learn about the fascinating story of the Asmat people and purchase a few fabulous artifacts over the Internet.
From the early 1950’s until 1962, the carved art of the newly discovered Asmat people of Papua, New Guinea enjoyed immense popularity, especially among Dutch collectors. When the Netherlands gave up control of the country in 1962 to Indonesia, the new rulers cracked down on the Asmat, mostly because of their belief in ritual warfare, cannibalism, and headhunting. As part of that crackdown, many native artifacts were destroyed, and wood carving was forbidden. However, certain missionary groups, such as the Crosiers, collected and safeguarded many thousands of Asmat artifacts.
Eventually, the Indonesian government relented and even encouraged the resumption of wood carving. Meanwhile, collectors were intrigued by the beautiful cultural objects such as war shields, panels, drums, tools and weapons. The geometric designs are abstract and strikingly modern. Asmart art involves cultural and religious beliefs that are somewhat foreign to western sensibilities. For instance, the Asmat conceived of all deaths as being caused by another person, either through violence or magic. This fueled their religious belief in avenging the dead, which made war commonplace. The Asmat felt that if they did not seek revenge against a loved-one’s “killer”, they would be punished by spirits. Ancestor worship lead to headhunting and cannibalism. Once avenged, the carving that represented the deceased ancestor was allowed to decay in the jungle.
Collectors and traders have set up websites that facilitate the sale of Asmat artifacts. In some cases, only full collections are offered; in others, individual pieces can be purchased. Sometimes, collectors mix artifacts from neighboring locales such as Sentani and Waigeo. Active collectors usually post a photograph of each piece for sale, along with any identifying information they may have. Buyers are usually affluent people, such as business executives and professionals, who are attracted to native art. Enterprising traders might purchase a list of affluent sales leads in order to stimulate demand for their collected objects. Websites are designed to elicit the contact information from possible purchasers, and may include price lists.
To be effective, a collector’s website must perform well in response to search engine inquiries. This requires that these websites use the proper keywords, such as “Asmat”, several times on each page so that search engines will index on the keyword. It is also useful to arrange backlinks from related, authoritative sites such as museums. The backlinks will help your website achieve a higher Page Rank, and thus receive more visitor traffic.