An Abelam 'baba tagwa' mask is made from rattan through coiling, built up from a circular cane frame at neck level. This is often painted with natural earth pigments around the eye areas and with geometric patterns around the side of the mask.
During tambuan ceremonies, the wearer of the mask has a costume of shredded sago palm fronds that conceals dancer's identity. A garland of inedible bright orange and green fruit, called 'mban', is sometimes worn around the collar of the mask and leaves are often woven into the openwork of the crest and hung from the loop at the end of the nose. The wearer of the costume act as both a clown and policeman to keep the uninitiated from witnessing certain events.
The 'baba' figure is found throughout the Abelam area but the style of the helmet mask varies from region to region.
mid 20th century
coil-woven plant fibre, rattan, grey, yellow, red and black pigments
45.7 cm height :
0 - Whole; 45.7 cm
Not on display
© Abelam people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Referenced in 2 publications
Natalie Wilson, Hunting the collectors: Pacific collections in Australian museums, art galleries and archives, '(Works of) paradise and yet: Stanley Gordon Moriarty, Tony Tuckson and the collection of Oceanic Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales', pg. 221-241, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2007, 233.
Daniel Thomas (Editor), 1965 Acquisitions, Sydney, 1965, 80. cat.no. 144