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Pacific art

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Gable mask

(mid 20th century)


Unknown Artist


The basketry mask is placed on the gable of the ceremonial house by the people living in the middle Sepik area. Sometimes it is woven as part of the structure. Bateson (Gregory Bateson, 'Social structure of the Iatmul people of the Sepik River', Oceania, 2: 259, 1932), says they are the female personification of the house. It is possible that this object was made for sale but it still appears to embody the best qualities of Sepik River art. It is made of cane, painted red, white and black, decorated with cassowary feathers around the eyes, and the nose ornament is of wood.

revised entry from AJ Tuckson, 'Some Sepik River art from the collection', AGNSW Quarterly, vol 13, no 3, 1972, pg. 671.


Cultural origin

Iatmul people


(mid 20th century)

Materials used

woven rattan cane, red, white and black natural pigments, cassowary feathers, carved wood


181.5 x 99.5 x 54.0 cm :

0 - Whole; 181.5 cm

0 - Whole; 99.5 cm

0 - Whole; 54 cm


Purchased 1964


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 7 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1964 Acquisitions, Sydney, 1964, 62. 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, Melanesian art, Sydney, 1966, front cover (illus.), 12. 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.

Tony Tuckson, Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 45. 83

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