Malagan Totem from New Ireland

Contributed by McLean Museum and Art Gallery

Malagan Totem from New Ireland

A nineteenth century Malagan totem from New Ireland in the form of a carved wooden head decorated with various pigments with the eyes are made from the opercula of the turbo shell. The 'hair' is made from wooden stalks fixed into sockets on the head. 'Malagan' are ceremonies which mark important life events in northern New Ireland, an island in the Bismarck Archipelago to the north east of Australia. The most important of all Malagan ceremonies are the memorials for the dead for which elaborate sculptures and masks such this one are made. This example was collected by Captain David Swan of Greenock in the early 1890s.

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