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Pacific art

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Rimbu (ceremonial headdress)

mid 20th century
collected 1963


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.

Collected by Stan Moriarty at the Mount Hagen Show in 1963, this 'rimbu' headdress reflects the ingenuity and inventiveness of highlands artists in their appropriation of modern materials into traditional forms; note the incorporated '7UP' drink can.

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


Other Title


Cultural origin

Kewa people


mid 20th century
collected 1963

Materials used

coil-woven rattan, bamboo, plant fibres, metal '7UP' drink can, white clay, red and blue pigments


77.0 x 48.0 x 45.0 cm :

0 - Whole, 48 cm (18 7/8"), Width

0 - Whole, 65 cm (25 9/16"), Length from top to bottom of cane framework

0 - Whole, 45 cm (17 11/16"), Depth

0 - Whole, 77 cm (30 5/16"), Overall length from top to bottom of fringe


Gift of Stan Moriarty 1977


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Kewa people

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 2 publications


Natalie Wilson (Editor), Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, Sydney, 2014, 100 (illus.), 101 (colour illus.), 161. 44

Natalie Wilson, Tribal art, 'Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands', pg. 76-85, Belgium, Summer 2014, 79 (colour illus.), 83. fig.nos. 6 and 7