The only Micronesian mask

Masks are very rare in Micronesia. Traditionally they are only found on the Satawan Atoll in the Mortlock group of islands. (Melanesia and Indonesia have thousands of different masks.) This typical example is made of breadfruit wood painted white using lime and black using soot. This wood mask has narrow eye-slits and a plaited coconut fiber cord for securing it to the wearer’s head. It is over 100 years old.

Such masks represented an ancestor. They were used as ornaments in the ceremonial house and sometimes in boat houses. The ceremonial house was the location of performances by members of a secret society, in which the god of wind was appeased to protect the breadfruit crops from hurricanes and storms.



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