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Gable Mask off a Ceremonial House, Blackwater River Area, East Sepik Province, PNG.


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Collection No. T-4331
Size 87cm x 61 cm
Gable Mask off a Ceremonial House, Blackwater River Area, East Sepik Province, PNG.
Gable Mask off a Ceremonial House, Blackwater River Area, East Sepik Province, PNG.
Gable Mask off a Ceremonial House, Blackwater River Area, East Sepik Province, PNG.

This beautiful old and used Gable Mask is carved from a single large piece of hardwood & then painted & decorated with woven & wood attachments and a type of native fruit often used in Sepik Ceremonies. The eyes are made from conis shell.

The photo of a middle Sepik River ceremonial house where you can see a similar Gable Mask near the top of the peaked structure are from the superb book & exhibition “Myth and Magic: Art of the Sepik River”  by Crispin Howarth at The National Gallery of Australia in 2015

In the early 20th Century across the Sepik River area spectacular ceremonial houses were found in almost every village. They are known as ‘Haus tambaran’ in New Guinea pidgin English. These amazing ceremonial houses embody the paramount female ancestor whose enormous face appears on the gable and whose name is given to the house.

Clans descending from a common ancestor build the ceremonial houses where ceremonial objects are stored. Only men who are initiated are permitted inside the house Tambaran.  During ritual ceremonies, the house becomes ‘hot’, indicating the presence of spirits.

Gable masks were placed high above the entrance of the ceremonial houses. Intended to be seen from a distance, their placement at the exterior apex of the large and imposing ceremonial house would loom downwards over the nearby dance ground where everyone could feel its presence.

 

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