Yam mask – Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea, Sepik region, Abelam people.
H. 25 cm. W. 17 cm.
Fibre, balsa wood, red/white/black/yellow pigment, wooden peg.
Yam (sweet potato) masks are used to adorn the yams in special festivities in honour of this tuber. The Abelam grow small yams for consumption and very large ones (up to 6 feet) for ceremonial purposes. The heads of these large ones are adorned with specially made masks which are created exclusively for this purpose and never worn by humans.
This specific yam mask has a wooden peg on which it sits and that was used to place the mask in the ground. Most masks that we see have an actual mask shape, this piece is made up of a piece of balsa wood with a face carved into it and a rim of fibre. This is a small and very decorative piece of Papua art.