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Dance mask

mid 20th century
collected 1965


Iatmul people

Papua New Guinea

No image
  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Middle Sepik River East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
    Cultural origin
    Iatmul people
    mid 20th century
    collected 1965
    Media categories
    Sculpture , Ceremonial object
    Materials used
    wood, sago palm petiole, cane, earth pigments
    137.0 cm height
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Gift of Todd Barlin 2020. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
    Not on display
    Accession number
    Artist information
    Iatmul people

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Sepik masks vary in style considerably depending on their place of origin, with some used as part of elaborate dance costumes, while others are used for display on canoes and sacred flutes or as private amulets, and range in size from very small to those over a metre tall. Masks have a transformative power and are always made and worn by initiated men, with their meaning emerging over many decades of participation in ceremonial life.

    This mask, comprises a head carved in wood and painted with white, black and red pigments, attached to a conical structure made from the flattened petioles of the sago palm. It was most likely part of a full-body costume, with the circular lower edge used to attach leaf strips and other ornamentation, which would be dismantled after the ceremony.

    This mask was collected by Australian geologist Peter Austin, who travelled through the Sepik region in 1965-66 and assembled a comprehensive collection of material culture from the Pacific, which is now held at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

    The wooden head closely resembles another held by the Gallery's, collected by Australian businessman Stanley Moriarty at Pagwi village in 1963, and decorated with cassowary feathers.

Other works by Iatmul people

See all 44 works