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Gable mask

mid 20th century


Iatmul people

Papua New Guinea


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

Media category

Ceremonial object

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


Artist information

Iatmul people

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 7 publications


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, 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

Tony Tuckson, Melanesian art, Sydney, 1966, front cover (illus.), 12. 118

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

Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1964 Acquisitions, Sydney, 1964, 62. 112