Yam Mask, Abelam people, PNG, 1960s - 1970s

1960s – 1970s
cane, pigment
40 x 19 cm

The yam mask is tightly woven, collected in that colonial period before Indepence in PNG in 1975 and showing good patina from use and age. T It is from the southern Abelam region of Wosera in the mountains inland from the North Coast of Papua New Guinea.

The mask 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 mask, called babamini in the Abelam language, is the face of the yam, and in a sense, the face of Mother Nature.

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