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Abelam Wood Helmet Mask


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Collection No. T-1694
Size 52cm
Abelam Wood Helmet Mask
Abelam Wood Helmet Mask
Abelam Wood Helmet Mask

Provenance Ex Crispin Howarth Collection. C

Wood Masks worn on the head in the Abelam area are extremely rare, best known for their woven masks call Baba Tagwa.

The Abelam and neighboring peoples of the Prince Alexander Mountains in the Sepik region of northeast New Guinea create several types of basketry masks. They include the type known in the Abelam language as baba tagwa, which is worn over the head like a helmet, as well as the yam masks used to decorate the gigantic long yams grown and exchanged competitively by Abelam men. Among the Abelam, baba tagwa masks are associated with the male initiation cycle, in which they are worn by men clad in shaggy costumes made from strips of leaves. During certain ceremonies, these imposing masked figures serve as guards. Brandishing lengths of bamboo or other weapons, the baba tagwa drive off women, children, and uninitiated men, who are not permitted to witness the secret initiation rites. It is unknown whether the wood helmet masks are used the same as the baba tagwa or serve another ceremonial purpose

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