The famous PNG mud man mask

Q:  Here is a mask I picked up in my travels in Florida. Went to Goodwill and found this Asaro mud man mask  dated 1997.  This was on a paper label inside the mask.  Really great condition. Teeth are real.  Other bone  and seed decorations really cool. Scary looking.  Deb, 1109

A:  A lot of the people who write to me found their mystery mask in a thrift shop… and it is usually junk I can’t publish.  This one was probably made for tourist, but it certainly is not junk. The style is perfect, it’s been carefully made and decorated, and it would be nice for any collection of Oceanic art. However, one that was less fancy would be a little more true to form.

On page 71 of the book, Masks of the World, it says… “Mask in PNG are usually made of carved wood, woven grass and fibers, animal materials, etc., but the Asaro are the only tribe that makes them completely out of clay. According to legend, their ancestors were once driven into a swamp by an invading tribe. After plastering their heads with mud, they launched a counter attack and frightened the enemy away.”  A-

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