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


Gable mask from ceremonial house facade

mid 20th century


attrib. Kapriman people

Papua New Guinea

Alternate image of Gable mask from ceremonial house facade by attrib. Kapriman people
Alternate image of Gable mask from ceremonial house facade by attrib. Kapriman people
Alternate image of Gable mask from ceremonial house facade by attrib. Kapriman people
  • Details

    Other Title
    Gable mask
    Place where the work was made
    Blackwater River East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
    Cultural origin
    probably Kapriman people
    mid 20th century
    Media category
    Ceremonial object
    Materials used
    woven rattan cane, natural pigments, cassowary feathers (Casuarius), wood
    181.5 x 102.0 x 51.0 cm
    Purchased 1964
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Kapriman people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    attrib. Kapriman people

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Across the Sepik, spectacular ceremonial houses are found in every village. They are known as 'geko', 'ŋgaigo' or 'ngeko' in Iatmul, and 'haus tambaran' in Pidgin. In the Middle Sepik, the 'geko' embodies the paramount female ancestor whose enormous face appears on the gable and whose name is given to the house. Clans descending from a common ancestor build the 'geko', where cult objects are stored. Only men who are initiated are permitted inside the 'geko' and, during ritual ceremonies, the house becomes 'hot', indicating the presence of spirits.

    Gable masks are either carved from wood or woven using split rattan cane and are hung high above the entrance of the 'geko'. Woven examples such as this feature prominent foreheads, separately attached ears and broad, open mouths filled with fine teeth.

    [entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 15]

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 7 publications

    • Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1964 Acquisitions, Sydney, 1964, 62. cat.no. 112

    • Peter Laverty (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly (vol. 13, no. 4), Sydney, Jul 1972, 697 (illus.). "The primitive art area is temporarily situated on the first floor. Exhibits are from the Sepik River, New Guinea, along with a grave-symbol figure from New Hebrides, in the left foreground". The 'Gable mask' is seen on the wall, together with other works collected by Tuckson in the 1960s and early 1970s.

    • JA Tuckson, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'Some Sepik River art from the collection', pg. 666-679, Sydney, Apr 1972, 668, 671, 676 (illus.). plate no. 10

    • Tony Tuckson, Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 45. cat.no. 83

    • Tony Tuckson, Melanesian art, Sydney, 1966, front cover (illus.), 12. cat.no. 118

    • Tony Tuckson, Art and Australia, 'Primitive art collection', pg. 76-79, Sydney, Jul 1972, 79 (illus.). Image of work in the 'Primitive Gallery' at the AGNSW in 1972, with other works from the collection.

    • Editor Unknown (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, Sydney, Apr 1965, 232 (illus.).