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Two stone headed 19th Century New Guinea ClubsNew Guinea Papuan Gulf Marupai 2 of 2

Black Water River; Woven  Mask

Black Water River; Woven Mask



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Blackwater River; Woven Initiation Mask

Collected : early 1960s

The most important event in the life of every Sepik River boy is the ceremony at which he is inducted into manhood.  On that day he becomes an adult officially and assumes the responsibilities of manhood.  Weeks of preparation precede the initiation rites, which are held whenever the tribal elders decide that enough recruits are ready to join the club.  Several boys and young men are sworn in at the same time and it may be two to three years before a new group is assembled.  The initiates are taught tribal secrets, rituals and myths as well as the arts of hunting, fishing and tribal warfare.  They must undergo various tests of physical courage and endurance, including a stay of several days in the jungle with little or no food, and they must convince the village men that they are worthy of admission to the secret society.  Each spirit house has a collection of special masks that are worn during the coming of age ceremony.  The masks vary in size and style from village to village, but they always represent ancestor spirits.  This basket mask is from Sangriman near the junction of Krosmeri and Blackwater Rivers south of the Middle Sepik.  It features an elongated nose, symbol of virility.  Made of woven tree fiber, it was painted with ground charcoal, lime and ochre.  Secret society members wear these masks to scare women and children away from the spot where an initiation ceremony is about to take place

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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2018 08:51