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


Baba or yau-baba (bell-shaped woven mask)

mid 20th century


Abelam people

Papua New Guinea

  • Details

    Other Titles
    Helmet mask
    baba tagwa mask
    Place where the work was made
    Maprik District East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
    Cultural origin
    Abelam people
    mid 20th century
    Media category
    Ceremonial object
    Materials used
    coil-woven plant fibre, rattan, grey, yellow, red and black pigments
    45.7 cm height :

    0 - Whole, 45.7 cm (18")

    Purchased 1965
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Abelam people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Abelam people

    Works in the collection


  • About

    'Baba' masks form part of a full-body costume that is used during initiations. 'Yau-baba' masks are used in communal and private 'yam scenes' – displayed in the secret room of the yam-storage house together with 'urungwall figures' – to promote the growth of yams. They may also be shown together with shell rings in a private yam scene. A 'yau-baba' usually has its own name and is also linked to success in hunting pigs.

    The pigments used on woven 'baba' or 'yau-baba' masks, 'urungwall' figures and 'bai' paintings are sourced from natural ochres and paints. Colours are believed to have magical properties if used with spells or mixed with certain ingredients.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 3 publications

Other works by Abelam people

See all 7 works