Oceania

Abelam yam mask from PNG

Q: Looking to ID this mask. The story is that it was brought back from somewhere in the Pacific Theater during or a little after WWII. It has a movable mouth (or lower jaw) and a tongue made up of some kind of rolled up material. Overall kind of beat up and moth eaten. Probably had some fur on it at some time and has a tail at the top. Kind of a rat shape to it. Overall length, not including the tail, is about 31″. Daryl, 1722

A: We are thinking this mask is from Papua New Guinea’s East Sepik Region. This is where the Abelam people live. A dramatic, large mask made of bark cloth stretched over a wooden frame. White dots and lines stand out dark grey background that is thickened with clay. Masks like this one are probably created for festivals surrounding the big yam, the crucial crop of the Abelam people of northeast Papua New Guinea. They have traditionally been used to adorn the heads of those huge tubers, rather than humans. A

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