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early 20th century-mid 20th century
collected 1965


Unknown Artist

No image
  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Ramu River Madang Province Papua New Guinea
    early 20th century-mid 20th century
    collected 1965
    Media categories
    Sculpture , Ceremonial object
    Materials used
    carved wood, red and yellow ochre, black pigment
    43.0 x 16.5 x 12.0 cm
    Purchased 1965
    Not on display
    Accession number
  • About

    The Ramu River flows into the sea close to the Sepik River mouth. Masks from the coastal Sepik and lower Sepik are based on an ovoid form, some tapering at the top and chin. The nose is often broader at the bridge than the tip and in many cases is elongated which has led to the designation 'beak style' (Felix Speiser, "Art styles in the Pacific", in Douglas Newton (ed.) 'The many faces of primitive art: a critical anthology', New Jersey 1966, pg. 149). Writers tend to stress the angle of the eyes but there are many variants. There is however nearly always a formal interrelation between eyes and nose. The mouth is nearly always small, an incised crescent form placed towards the bottom of the face. Some areas of red and black paint decoration are still discernable on this mask. Generally masks from the coastal Sepik are less decorated than those of the middle Sepik.

    AB Lewis ("New Guinea mask", Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, Department of Anthropology, no. 4, 1922, pg. 115-19) describes a ceremony at Awar, south-east of the Ramu River mouth, where four masks were used representing water spirits. Two very large feather head-dress masks were male; two wooden ones of the same variety as this mask, with cane frames covered with leaves were female, the mothers of the males. A procession of drummers and singers accompanied the masks to the end of the village and back to an enclosure. The performance took place twice for five days before the 'spirits' returned to their lagoon.

    revised entry from AJ Tuckson, 'Some Sepik River art from the collection', AGNSW Quarterly, vol 13, no 3, 1972, pg. 674.

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 2 publications