PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Large Abelam Baba Mask (PM015)
Description of item:
Abelam yam mask, from Prince Alexander Mountains, fiber & natural earth pigments; fine gallery condition; 1960’s.
Height: 42.5 cm (17 inches)
Width: 27 cm (11 inches)
Depth: 35 cm (14 inches)
Fine important example of Abelam yam mask for regenerate ceremonies. These baba masks are full helmet masks used during the yam ceremonies and during male initiation. They are made of woven cane fiber and painted with natural paints derived of minerals and plant extracts sometimes rubbed with mud before painting. Basketry yam masks are an essential part of the elaborate yam harvest ceremonies and festivals for the Abelam people of the East Sepik Province and rituals associated with yams form the basis of their spiritual life. They were made for one single occasion to be never used or worn again.
An Abelam man’s social status is determined not only by his abilities as an orator and a warrior; it is also measured by his success in growing long yams, the cultivation of which is a sacred activity, surrounded by magic and ritual restrictions. The shared imagery of the decorated long yams, human performers and wood images reflect the spiritual unity among yams, men and nggwalndu (powerful clan spirits) in the Abelam cosmology.
Kjellgren, E. ‘Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’, (2007: 65-66).
Collected by Lubo Todorov in the 1970’s.