Rare Ceremonial Dance Mask from the Nggala People, Swagap Village Upper Sepik River Papua New Guinea
|Size||Height 137cm x 38cm Wide|
The beautiful and rare ceremonial Dance Mask is from the Nggala People of Swagap Village on the Upper Sepik River area in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. The mask is large at 137cm high, carved from a single piece of wood except for the attached bird effigy at the top. This type of mask is rare & not many were ever collected. Swagap village used to be called Nggala and that is how it is referred to by the late Douglas Newtown the former curator of Oceanic Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York & formerly called The Museum of Primitive Art later incorporated into the Rockefeller Wing at The Metropolitan Museum did his fieldwork amongst the Nggala people in 1964, 1965, 1967.
According to the Douglas Newton ” At that time he estimated that there were only 140 people living at Nggala (Swagap). Newton later published a book on his research “Crocodile & Cassowary 1971” by The Museum of Primitive Art. The section about the Nggala in his book shows a similar mask at this example on page 49 , the mask is made from bark expect for the wood bird attached to the top.
These distinctive masks were made both in wood & bark were used in the Mbangk Ceremony. The masks represented powerful local water spirits of their area, the masks were made in pairs fastened back to back on the dancer who was in the middle of theses masks. The dancer was painted black from head to foot and had a long grass skirt from his shoulders to the ground and he looked out through the holes in the mask’s eyes.
The Nggala had few contacts with Europeans before 1953 when the Australian Colonial officers started to visit regularly because of earlier headhunting raids that were to be extinguished by the Colonial administration.
Provenance: This fine mask was collected circa 1969-70. I have had it in my personal collection for 35 years and have enjoyed it immensely over the years.
It was exhibited & published in the exhibition Oceanic Arts Pacifica at The Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre in Sydney in 2014. The exhibition was mainly for the Pacific Islander community that live in Western Sydney & during the opening weekend, several thousand pacific islands people came to dance & sing & enjoy the art exhibitions. Published in the exhibition catalogue on page 55
You can see some photos of the mask in the exhibition space.
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