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Abelam Ceremonial Yam Mask Baba

Abelam Ceremonial Yam Mask Baba

Regular price $433.00
Regular price Sale price $433.00
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Abelam people, early to mid. 20th century, Maprik district, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea.

Gorgeous ceremonial yam mask, also referred to as a baba mask, originates from the Abelam people, along the East Sepik River Region, of Papua New Guinea. Yam farming was a often the main crop, making up a large part of the Abelam society. Ceremonial yams are lovingly cared for. During the yam growing season, strong emotions were kept to a minimum as they were thought to impede the growth of the yams. Fighting and sexual activity are taboo, it was thought that the yams had spirit and could sense these strong emotions. At harvest time, villagers would gather for the yam festival ceremony, at which time the farmers who presented the largest and best yams, often claimed a higher status and social ranking. The finest and largest yams are essentially transformed into human images, decorated like the men in full ceremonial regalia. The heads of these yams are adorned with a hand-painted and finely woven vegetal masks. These masks are made especially for the yams and are never worn by people.

Fantastic mask is made from woven fibers and grasses, colored with natural pigments, and has been mounted on a custom made  iron stand. Traces of yellow, black and brownish red pigments over a thin layer of mud or a clay. Good condition. Dust and dirt. Size approx. 31,0cm x 18,5cm x 4,5cm (excluded modern stand).

Provenance: Dutch private collection

References and further reading:

Abelam Masks: New Perspectives, Richard Scaglion, 2020, Tribal Art No. 96, pp. 42-49. 

The Stars Are Eyes: A New Perspective on the Art of the Abelam, Marc Assayag, Montreal: Marc Assayag, 2019.

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