A Fine Old Amulet Mask Coastal Sepik Area East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
A Fine Old Amulet Mask from the Coastal Sepik Area in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea, it was collected by a geologist in 1967.
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. 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. This mask was definitely made & used for traditional use. It has a fine custom-made steel display stand that makes it look like its floating in the air.
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: The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea & Oceanic Art