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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Oceanic Art : Abelam Wooden Polychrome Mask
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Abelam Wooden Polychrome Mask - PF.4460
Origin: Maprik Area, East Sepik, New Guinea
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 26.75" (67.9cm) high
Collection: Oceanic
Medium: Wood and Textile

Location: United States
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The concept of covering ones face with a mask has its roots far back into ancient times. Secrecy facilitates transformation, helping someone change from what one is, to what one wants to be. This is the magic aspect of the Greek theatrical masks and in the religious masks of Africa and Oceania. In New Guinea they are used on many occasions- in fertility rites, at the end of a monsoon season and in the initiation of young boys. For major celebrations of the Elema people, guests bring masks as things of joy and amazement.

This colorful mask may have been used for just such a purpose. Painted with skill and exuberance, it radiates good cheer and warmth. The pattern appears to imitate those actually painted on the face during festivals. It's headdress fans out like plumes of a tropical bird, or the orb of the sun. It is possible this mask was intended to be hung in a person's home in order to act as a visible sign of greeting. With such a glorious smile and good humor it will be a welcoming presence anywhere.
- (PF.4460)


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