This Collection of Amulet Masks are from the Sepik River area of the East Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea. I have collected and saved these masks over the past 38 years of collecting Oceanic Art. They are all different in styles for different areas of the Sepik River villages, each is unique & beautiful but together they are something special, together they become a ” family of small sculptures “. Most collectors know well about the magic of grouping small objects together and how wonderful they can look on a shelf or table. This collection has been on my bedroom bookshelf for many years, I always get great enjoyment from looking at them and showing them to a friend or another collector.
In the Sepik River area peoples ceremonial & spiritual life revolves around masks, usually, dance masks worn by a select person but also large masks for the gables or windows of the monumental ceremonial Haus Tambaran or Men’s Ceremonial House where all the important rituals & initiations take place and where scared objects like masks are stored and venerated. Small masks like these are similar in the style or the larger dance masks and are used by men as a personal protection and magical purposes, they are often kept in small woven bags and carried in a larger bush fibre string bag when out walking or hunting. Every owner of a small mask would tell you a different story of their use & importance & how they are connected to the large dance masks kept in the village. Small masks can also be tied onto other types of ceremonial objects.
When I was visiting New Guinea & West Papua 38 years ago many times I saw old men pull out small woven bags of magic implements & use them with Betel Nut to blow away storms or stay safe in long canoe trips. I asked them about this & never got much of a reply except ” Old Man Magic “.
These masks collected over 38 years came from several collections & field collecting
The Todd Barlin Collection of Sepik River Papua New Guinea Art
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