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Gable mask from ceremonial house facade

mid 20th century
collected 1963


Sawos people

Papua New Guinea

Alternate image of Gable mask from ceremonial house facade by Sawos people
Alternate image of Gable mask from ceremonial house facade by Sawos people
  • Details

    Other Title
    Dance board
    Place where the work was made
    Torembi Village Yanget Valley Middle Sepik River East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
    Cultural origin
    Sawos people
    mid 20th century
    collected 1963
    Media categories
    Ceremonial object , Sculpture
    Materials used
    sago palm petioles, black palm wood and cane frame, woven natural fibre, cassowary feathers (Casuarius), plant fibre tassels, natural pigments
    136.0 x 76.2 x 20.0 cm
    Purchased 1976
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Sawos people

    Works in the collection


  • About

    The settlement at Torembi consists of three villages, with the oldest village in a forest clearing close to swamps that provide sago for sustenance. Sago flour is traded for fish with their Iatmul neighbours on the river. Each Torembi village has two men's ceremonial houses, one for each moiety. Every ceremonial house displays the totems of the clans represented, while gable masks embody the spirits of the ancestors.

    This mask, with its finely woven and protruding eyes, nose and mouth, closely resembles one photographed in situ in 1959 at Torembi by anthropologist Alfred Bühler. It is now in the collection of the MH de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco.

    [entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 15]

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

    • Melanesian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 20 Apr 1966–22 May 1966

    • Melanesian art: redux, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 Nov 2018–17 Feb 2019

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 4 publications

    • Art Gallery of New South Wales (Editor), Catalogue of acquisitions 1976, Sydney, 1976, 95 (illus.). cat.no. 292

    • Suzanne Greub, Authority and ornament: art of the Sepik River, Basel, 1985. see cat.no. 333, 'Gable mask from a men's house' for similar gable mask from Torembi Village in the Middle Sepik. Colour reproduction.

    • Stan Moriarty, Collection of S G Moriarty, Dee Why, 1970, (illus.). This mask can be seen with other objects on page captioned: 'A corner of the Sepik collection featuring, canoe prows, pottery, lime holders etc.', in the house of Stan Moriarty in Dee Why.

    • Tony Tuckson, Melanesian art, Sydney, 1966, 11. cat.no. 103: "Board in the form of a face. Bark on frame painted light red and white on dark grey ground. Basketry hanging eyes, nose, mouth and tongue, and ears. Cassowary feather "beard", 46h x 30w, Sepik River. Coll: S.G. Moriarty. M969".

Other works by Sawos people

See all 7 works