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Title

Timpsonk (cult mask)

mid 20th century
collected 1963


Artist

Mendi people

Papua New Guinea


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]


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


Artist information

Mendi people

Works in the collection

4


Place

Where the work was made
Mendi

Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Referenced in 4 publications

Bibliography


Trevor Shearston, Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, 'Timpsonk (cult mask)', pg. 58-61, Sydney, 2014, 15, 59 (colour illus.), 60, 159. cat.no. 7

Natalie Wilson, Look, 'A myriad of artforms: rare and beautiful objects from the highlands of New Guinea', pg. 24-28, Sydney, May 2014, 27.

Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 47, 49. cat.no. H3

Melanesian art, Sydney, 1966, 18. cat.no. 252