Mai Mask Middle Sepik River East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
|Size||Height 67cm x 22cm|
An old and danced Mai Mask from the Iatmul People. The Iatmul live in the Middle Sepik River area of Papua New Guinea.
Highly decorated with Nassa and Cowrie Shells, Boars Tusks. The shell work is typical of this type mask however the bulbous protrusions above the eyes are the only example I have seen.
Mai masks are carved and danced in pairs, portraying elder and younger supernatural siblings, either brothers or sisters.
Worn by young men and boys, the masks are attached to conical basketry costumes that cover the dancer’s head and upper body. Mai mask performances begin with the construction of a fenced compound. Within it, the men build a raised platform, with a backdrop depicting the mountains where, according to oral tradition, the masks originated, and a ramp that extends over the wall to the ground outside. As the performance begins, the Mai masked dancers burst out from behind the backdrop and stride down the ramp. Reaching the ground outside, they are joined by the women, who accompany them to the dancing ground, where a lengthy performance ensues before the dancers finally retire into the men’s ceremonial house.
The Todd Barlin Collection of Papua New Guinea Art and Artefacts.
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