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Rimbu (ceremonial headdress)

mid 20th century


Kewa or Anganen people

Papua New Guinea


'Rimbu' was a powerful spirit cult practiced by several groups across the southern highlands of Papua New Guinea, in particular the Kewa and Anganen people. It is thought to have arrived in the Mendi Valley in the early 1900s. Ritual knowledge was bought and sold by powerful men and different forms of 'rimbu' were celebrated. The cult involved constructing spirit houses, playing bamboo flutes ('the talk of the spirits'), reciting sacred words and sacrificing and eating pigs. 'Rimbu' was held to increase the health and fertility of people, pigs and gardens, and engaged a wide pantheon of spirits. It was an exclusively male endeavour with women and children excluded.

This 'rimbu' headdress resembles one in the collection of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, formerly in the Friede Collection, and a third in a private Sydney collection. These are the only extant headdresses of this form currently known.

The circular disc in the middle of the forehead of the 'face' resembles an object collected by Stan Moriarty in 1963 at Lonk in the Mendi region of the southern highlands of Papua New Guinea [M888], which was used to decorate the façade of the spirit house where pigs were slaughtered during ritual ceremonies.



mid 20th century

Media category

Ceremonial object

Materials used

wood, rattan cane, bamboo, plant fibres, white mineral pigment


78.0 cm height; 10.0 cm diam. upper opening; 34.0 cm diam. lower opening


Gift of Evarné Coote 2016


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Kewa or Anganen people

Works in the collection