Three Miniature Yam Masks, 1980s - 1990s

cane, pigment
17.5 x 10 cm, 15 x 9.5 cm, 12 x 5 cm
$1,100 for the three

It is not common to find yam masks so small, hence the term miniature yam mask. They are used essentially like the larger yam mask, or may sometimes be an accessory on the same yam display.

The yam mask is tightly woven, well painted with pigments, and is from the southern Abelam region of Wosera, on the plains north of the Sepik River.

The masks represent a mythical bird; in this case almost certainly a parrot or cockatoo-like creature. These birds are symbols of fertility, a fertility of the whole landscape, like Mother Nature. They are used specifically after the harvest of yams ( giant yams can be up to 3 metres long) in harvest ceremonies. The mask is tied at the top of the yam for ceremonial display, and further decorated with feathers, shells and many types of leaves and flowers.

This trio of miniature masks, called babamini in the Abelam language, are the face of the yam, and in a sense, the face of Mother Nature.

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