New Guinea Highlands: Art from the Jolika Collection

By John Friede, Marcia Friede, Terence E. Hays, Christina Hellmich, John Bigelow Taylor, and Dianne Dubler

The Highlands region of Papua New Guinea is distinguished geographically by its vast mountain ranges and lush valleys, and culturally by its numerous and diverse societies. Visual expression in the Highlands is marked both by its long-held practices and by methods and materials that reflect its contemporary global connections. For centuries Highlanders have innovated and incorporated old and new elements in their creative processes to achieve a remarkable aesthetic legacy.

In the Highlands, everyday objects, such as bags, clothing, and other personal and utilitarian items, are given a full range of artistic treatments, often embellished and intricately fabricated. In celebrations and ceremonies, artists approach the human body as a moving composition and a locus for adornment and display. Culled primarily from twentieth-century examples, the works of art featured in this volume represent some types that are still used in daily and ceremonial life in New Guinea today, while other rare pieces are now seldom seen.

Including objects from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s collection housed at the de Young and assembled by Marcia and John Friede, New Guinea Highlands: Art from the Jolika Collection is the first major publication to highlight this extraordinary body of work and celebrate its dynamism, innovative forms, and sophisticated use of materials—as well as to acknowledge generations of Highlands artists. Featuring in-depth subject essays by thirteen preeminent scholars in the field and a fully illustrated catalogue of more than 150 pieces—many never before published—this comprehensive survey celebrates the artistry and ingenuity that exemplifies the art of the New Guinea Highlands.


John Friede, with his wife, Marcia Friede, assembled over decades the Jolika Collection, which is named in honor of their three children, John, Lisa, and Karen. More than 300 works from their holdings are now part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s permanent collection housed at the de Young.

Terence E. Hays is professor emeritus of anthropology at Rhode Island College, Providence. For forty years he has specialized in New Guinea Highlands peoples, conducting ethnographic field research in the Eastern Highlands in the 1970s and 1980s, and focusing on comparative and synthetic studies of societies and cultures across New Guinea today. He is the author and editor of numerous books, book chapters, and scholarly essays about New Guinea.

Christina Hellmich is curator of the Jolika Collection of New Guinea Art and curator in charge of the department of the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. She is the coeditor of Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas and the Jolika Collection of New Guinea Art: A Decade of Collecting (2009), Embodiments: Masterworks of African Figurative Sculpture (2015), and Royal Hawaiian Featherwork: Nā Hulu Ali‘i (2015).

John Bigelow Taylor and Dianne Dubler are New York–based still-life photographers who specialize in architecture, works of art, antiquities, and jewelry. Currently they produce bespoke limited-edition books on private collections throughout the world.

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