Yam mask

Production date
Pre 1967
Papua New Guinea
East Sepik
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Object detail

Yam mask, woven using plant fibre to create elaborate three dimensional and filigreed shapes.
CH classification INDIGENOUS CULTURES Melanesian & South Sea Islander mask
Production date
Pre 1967
L 470 x W 375 x D 120 mm
History and use
An important tradition in this Sepik region is the harvesting of large yams for ceremonial competition and exchange. There are two types of yams grown along the Sepik River – one for eating, and one for competitive growing during the annual 5-month harvest season (dioscorea alata).

The Harvest Yam Festival occurs at the end of the harvest season. Men exchange their largest yam with their ‘exchange partner’. During the festival, the largest yams are placed in front of the men’s ceremonial house and lavishly decorated in ceremonial dress, with yam masks placed over the ‘head’ of the yam. The yams are given ancestral names (nggwal), transforming them into living spirit beings.

This object was part of a larger donation made to the Museum of Tropical Queensland in 2012, on behalf of the estate of Len and Catherine Lawler.
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