Mask - Malagan

Production date
Papua New Guinea
New Ire
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Object detail

Mask, wood. Stylised interpretation of a male face, with wide gaping mouth. Vanis type malagan - Tatanua

Glass set into the eye portion of mask, represent eyes.

Rattan framework is implemented for extended part of mask, excluding face.

Left side of mask is encased in lime and embedded with small sticks. Bordered by a strip of red and then a lime portion coloured partially in black. At back part of mask, beneath lime is a small portion of bush fibre resembling hair.

Right side of mask is encased in bark cloth and covered with a small layer of lime. Upon the lime are patterns of red and black.

Bark cloth hangs off mask slightly.
Production date
Production place
L395mm x W212mm x H440mm
Media/Materials description
Alstonia villosa lime wood, bush fibre, lime, glass, small sticks, spiked red seed pods, opercula from Turbo Petholatus, cloth.
History and use
The vanis type malagan,Tatanua is produced in the northern part of New Ireland and Tabar Island.

Early ethnographic accounts suggested that the word 'Tatanua' incorporated the local names or variants for the spirit 'tanua'; or the soul of the deceased individual.

The Tatanua mask does not represent an individual or his spirit, but looks "just like a true man" (Gunn, 1997:60). Not simply in physical characteristics, but within a broader sense of culturally defined male capabilities (Clay, 1987:66).

An exclusively male ritual, the Tatanua's dance preparations take place within a sacred men's enclosure, away from the presence of women.

Uploaded to the Web 27 May 2011.
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