We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

Title

Timpsonk (cult mask)

mid 20th century
collected 1963

Artist

Mendi people

Papua New Guinea

Alternate image of Timpsonk (cult mask) by Mendi people
Alternate image of Timpsonk (cult mask) by Mendi people
Alternate image of Timpsonk (cult mask) by Mendi people
Alternate image of Timpsonk (cult mask) by Mendi people
Alternate image of Timpsonk (cult mask) by Mendi people
  • Details

    Other Titles
    Ceremonial clown mask
    Timsank
    Timpsonk
    Timbsonk (cult mask)
    Place where the work was made
    Mendi Southern Highlands Province Papua New Guinea
    Cultural origin
    Mendi people
    Dates
    mid 20th century
    collected 1963
    Media category
    Ceremonial object
    Materials used
    woven rattan, earth pigments, gold-lipped oyster shell (Pinctada maxima), bamboo, plant fibre, shells, burr seeds, machine-wove cotton fabric, plant fibre string, animal skin
    Dimensions
    woven mask 132.0 cm height; 48.0 to 52.0 cm diameter; figure 74.0 x 34.1 cm
    Credit
    Purchased 1977
    Location
    Not on display
    Accession number
    241.1977.a-d
    Copyright
    © Mendi people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Mendi people

    Works in the collection

    4

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  • About

    During the 1950s, the 'timp' cult swept through the Mendi Valley in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, traded from the south through gift-exchange. Ritual knowledge was acquired by cult sponsors in exchange for valuables. The transactions took place over several months and were accompanied by complex and highly secretive ceremonial events.

    'Timp' was performed to control malicious 'towmow' (ancestral ghosts believed to bring sickness). The innards and fat from slaughtered pigs were cooked in earth ovens then distributed to cult inductees. Blood was collected and offered to the ghosts. Spells were recited and the pork eaten, after which the bones were gathered and placed in a bundled 'corpse' that mimicked the bound bones of deceased kin. The 'corpse' was then taken from the cult house and paraded before spectators, escorted by men wearing 'timpsonk' masks. Finally, it was buried, as interning the bones weakened the 'towmow'.

    [entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 39]

  • Places

    Where the work was made

    Mendi

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 4 publications

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