A dramatic combination of materials and textures, this mask epitomizes two tendencies in the art of New Guinea: the use of a variety of natural, locally available materials and the propensity for powerful, even flamboyant, imagery. On this mask, clay has been modeled over an oval wooden foundation; a basketry border surrounding the foundation probably held feathers, flowers, leaves, or other ephemeral materials. Before the clay dried, shells, tusks, and human hair were embedded in it. The shells and tusks not only create color and texture contrasts with the dark clay and hair, but they also are traditional indicators of wealth and prestige.
Kambot or nearby peoples, Papua New Guinea
Early 20th century (?)
Wood, rattan, clay, cowrie shells, nassa shells, boar tusks, human hair, pearl shell, fiber
H. 21 ½ in. (54.6 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 2010.6