Four Fine Old Amulet Masks Coastal Sepik Area East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
|Size||7cm to 9.5cm|
Four Fine Old Amulet Masks from the Coastal Sepik Area in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea
In the Sepik River area people’s 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 form to the larger dance masks and are used by men for 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. Small Amulet Masks & Amulet Figures were also tied to men’s beards and would have shown others the power protection they had from malevolent magic. There are great old historical photos of Sepik Men wearing Amulet Masks & Figures in their beards.
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. These old masks were definitely made & used traditionally and have an old dark patina from use.
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 chewed betel nuts to blow away storms or stay safe on long canoe trips. I asked them about this & never got much of a reply except ” Old Man Magic ” as if they were hesitant to divulge any information about their magic objects.
Provenance: Old Australian Collection and The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea & Oceanic Art