Mask from New Ireland

Contributed by McLean Museum and Art Gallery

Mask from New Ireland

This is a composite tatanua mask from northern New Ireland used as part of a Malagan ceremony. The headdress helmet is made from wicker and wood (Alstonia scholaris) frame decorated with orange crest and panels of red trade cloth at the sides and a green triangle in the centre. The front of the mask has a decorated wooden panel frieze.

Tatanua masks are danced in pairs or by groups of dancers. During the ceremony the ancestor spirits enter the mask and the dancer. Only the strongest may wear the mask, perform the dances correctly and thus ward off the magical spells cast by others at the ceremony.

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