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Pacific art

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Rimbu (ceremonial headdress)

mid 20th century
collected 1964


Kewa people

Papua New Guinea


'Rimbu' was a powerful spirit cult practiced by several groups across the southern highlands, 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.

[Exhibition text for 'Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands', AGNSW, 2014]


Other Title

Ceremonial hat

Cultural origin

Kewa people


mid 20th century
collected 1964

Media category

Mixed media

Materials used

coil-woven rattan, plant fibre, red and blue pigments, white clay


75.0 x 48.5 x 30.0 cm :

0 - Whole, 75 cm (29 1/2")

0 - Whole, 48.5 cm (19 1/8")

0 - Whole, 30 cm (11 13/16")


Purchased 1977


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Kewa people

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 2 publications


Tony Tuckson, Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 28 (illus.), 49. H9

Natalie Wilson (Editor), Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, Sydney, 2014, 99 (colour illus.), 161. 43