• Oceania

    Mask collecting for the rich

    Here is an older mosquito mask from the Bungain people of East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. It was collected around 1930 when the Bungain were a stone-age culture isolated from the modern world. The mask was carved with stone, shells or bones, and colored with natural pigments. It is in good condition and there is documentation of its origin and subsequent owners. (That’s called provenance.) It will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in NYC on May 15th… just five days from now. The suggested price range is $150,000-250,000. Don’t worry my friends, there will be some pieces selling for as little as $2,000-5,000. It must be great being in…

  • Europe,  Oceania

    There’s an Easter surprise in the Philippines.

    Just south of Luzon on the island of Maranduque there are Roman Catholics who celebrate the death and resurrection with realistic masks and costumes. Called the Morones Festival, it’s quite a pageant and not something you would expect to see in the South Pacific or anywhere else in Asia. It celebrates the Holy Week Festivities to the fullest with parades, processions and other activities. As in the Spanish Colonial traditions, many of the participants are costumed as Jewish followers of Jesus and the ruling Romans. Morones means army helmet in Spanish. The Morones Festival was started in 1807 by a Jesuit priest from Mexico. This Mexican folk play re-enacts the…

  • Oceania

    Demon mask from the Himalayas

    Q:  Hoping to learn more regarding the origin of this mask. Is it from Borneo? Looking at other masks online it seems to bear resemblance to the Oni masks of Japan. This mask was purchased by a donor in 1984-85 in Kuching, Sarawak on the island of Borneo from an antique dealer.  This mask is part of an art collection at a small college. Just curious if we could learn anything new!  Sarah, 1122 A:  I can’t find a picture of a similar mask anywhere. The wax seal is something the Nepalese customs service used to place on the rear of masks purchased for export. It is likely to be…

  • Oceania

    Rare Oceanic Mask

    A choice example of Oceanic art has been added to the collection at the Toledo Museum of Art. Purchased at Christie’s, the mask is one of four known distinguished examples from Saibai Island in the Torres Straits north of Australia.  Masks in this style are called “mawa,” meaning “face,” and are believed to represent mythical heroes whose appearances signal important events and rites of passage. There are only three other examples in this style, two in the Australian Museum in Sydney and one in Barbier Mueller Museum in Geneva, Switzerland. I posted this as a reminder of the wonderful masks you can see in museums. You can also purchase Oceanic…

  • 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…