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Rimbu (ceremonial headdress)

mid 20th century


Kewa or Anganen people

Papua New Guinea

No image
  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Kagua-Erave District Southern Highlands Province Papua New Guinea
    Cultural origin
    Kewa or Anganen people
    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
    © under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics
    Artist information
    Kewa or Anganen people

    Works in the collection


  • About

    '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.