Tago mask from PNG


Q:  Came across your site trying to identify a mask. It was given to my dad a long time ago by a friend who liked to travel, but he can’t remember where it’s from or anything else about it. Was hoping you could help. It’s about 17″ tall and 10″ wide.

A: Tago masks represent the ghosts of important ancestors. Every ten to twelve years, a year-long series of ceremonies remind each clan of its ancestral connections, with two major performances celebrating the arrival and departure of the ghosts. When men wear the tago mask, a taboo is placed on all coconuts for one year and there must be peace in the village.  I got this description from the Australian Museum. Though it explains what the mask might have been used for, this particular example appears to have been made in Papua New Guinea for the tourist trade, probably in the late 20th century. Take a close look at the rear to see how an unused mask meant for sale to tourists might look.  B




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