• Oceania

    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…

  • Oceania

    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…

  • Oceania

    Hudoq mask from the Dayak of Borneo

    Q:  I was living in Malaysia in 1990-91 and purchased a number of masks while there.  I know one is a Hurdoq mask I got in Borneo but am not sure about the other masks.  I’m interested in finding out what their function is and approximately what they may be worth.  Thanks for any help you can provide.  I’ve attached pictures of various masks rather than multiple views of a single mask.  Michael, 1053 A:  Thank you for the Hudoq mask photo. In the Dayak language hudoq  means hornbill bird. These famous masks are worn during agricultural ceremonies and to welcome important guests. Like so many ethnographic artifacts from around…

  • Oceania

    Colorful PNG mask

    Q:  This New Guinea mask is coming up in an estate sale this Tuesday morning.  Unfortunately this is the only pic that was online and I will have to make a decision on the spot. The starting bid is $300. I know it is not much to go on but any guidance you can give me would be greatly appreciated.  Herb, 1033 A:  PNG mask prices vary according to the following: (A) pre contact, (B) carved with modern tools, (C) made for the tourist trade. Without better photos I would lean toward B and C. I like the look of it, but this is only my artistic taste. If we…

  • Oceania

    Rare Micronesian mask

    This is an old mask called a tapuanu acquired circa 1885 in the Mortlock Islands (part of the Carolines). What makes it unusual is that the Micronesian people, who occupy a very large portion of the Pacific Ocean, are seldom interested in masks. Unlike those of the Indonesian and Melanesian cultures that are heavily into masquerade, you won’t see Micronesian masks very often. Our handsome tapuanu is carved wood 21 inches tall. It resides at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).  A+ Save

  • Oceania

    Mudman mask from PNG

    Q:  Can you tell me where this pottery mask comes from and how old it is?  Robert, 998 A:  This is a mudman mask from the Asaro people of the Eastern highlands of Papua New Guinea. Made of clay, they were originally used to scare opposing warriors during an attack. Small ones like this are meant to be monkeys and today they are sold for profit to tourists. According to legend, an Asaro group were once driven into a swamp by an invading tribe. After plastering their heads with mud they launched a counterattack and frightened the enemy away. On pages 71 and 76 of Masks of the World by…

  • Oceania

    Sepic River area mask

    Q:  (I can only find the photos of this mask from Martha, not her message. Hopefully, she can add something of interest.)  983 A:  This is a example of an ancestor mask from the Lower Sepic River area of Papua New Guinea. It is a little rough and probably artificially aged for the tourist trade, but it is a classic design that would look good on the wall.  B Save Save

  • Oceania

    PNG Yam Mask

    This old mask is from the Abelam people who live in the East Sepik province of Papua New Guinea. They are a farming society in which giant yams are an especially important food source. The masks are used to decorate harvested yams. Carvings like this (collected more than 40 years ago) were not made with steel tools and are often more beautiful than the more modern versions. You can see this and many other authentic Abelam and Wosera yam masks from the Dick Jemison Collection at Galerie Mourlot in  New York City during Tribal Art Week, May 4-8. Thank you, David Cassera, for reminding us of this important show.

  • Oceania

    The fabulous Baining mask

    This is a famous mask that comes from one of the islands in the New Britain chain of the Pacific Ocean. It is quite large (almost as big at the tribesman who’s wearing it) and is made of tapa cloth stretched over a light wood frame. The large masks are spectacular folk art worn at night around a bonfire built by the Uramot Baining people who live in the mountainous interior of the Gazelle Peninsula, and used during performances of the snake dance. Very dramatic, and different from anything else you can see in the world of masquerade. I hope you enjoy it.

  • Oceania

    Classic Sepic River mask

    Q:   I have recently inherited 2 south pacific masks from my parents which they collected when on a trip during the 1980’s. I was wondering if you can tell me more about them. I have photos but can’t attach to this email. Hope you can reply and I can send you this pictures. Think 1 is from Papua New Guinea / Vanuatu.  Gerry, 945 A:  Thanks for sending the pics. I will comment on the mask with more detail and precision. It is a beautiful example of PNG work. Please go to “Oceania” and scroll down to post #899. What I say there applies to this one as well. Also,…