Papua New Guinea Tribal Mwai Mask
AGE: – First half 20th Century
CONSTRUCTION: – Wood
HEIGHT: – 58cm
DEPTH: – 10cm
WEIGHT:– 1.2 kg.
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A genuine traditional artefact – Papua New Guinea Tribal Mwai Mask from the East Sepik River area. Masks such as these were used in tribal ceremonies and initiation ceremonies held when young men come of age.
This mask is decorated with rows of shells embedded into the wood around the perimeter with rows of smaller shells decorating the top and sides and centre of the mask underneath the nose. Some tufts of hair have deteriorated with age and fallen out. Natural pigments found in the New Guinea jungle have been used to paint the face similarly to this Sepik River Wood Carving.
Read MorePapua New Guinea Traditions.
The paper written by Brigitta Hauser-Schaublin (excerpt below) is an excellent source of information regarding the Masks of Papua New Guinea.
The Sepik River in Papua New Guinea and the people living there have been the focus of many anthropological studies, the earliest being those of Gregory Bateson among the Iatmul, Phyllis Kaberry among the Abelam, and Margaret Mead among the Mundugumor, the Arapesh, and the Chambri (Fig. 1). The Iatmul-speaking people who live along the border of the Middle Sepik and the Abelam in the southern foothills of the Alexander Mountains have become famous for their art and, subsequently, by the comparative studies of their art by Anthony Forge (2017).
Sepik art mirrors ‘Sepikness’, as Lutkehaus and Roscoe have called it in a much broader sense (Howarth 2015; Lutkehaus and Roscoe 1987:579; Peltier et al. 2015). It is the
permutation of motifs, patterns, and forms and their culture-specific expression throughout the Sepik region and, at the same time, display some shared basic features. What might look like a kind of permeability typical of the Sepik and its village-based societies is, in fact, the result of intense interactions in various forms –migration, exchange, warfare, ritual networks, trans-local kinship rl relationships, and trading routes –across language borders. Margaret Mead talked of ‘the diffusion of material and non-material traits in the context of the mountain Arapesh, which she called an ‘importing culture.