Lot: 40

Mask "mwai" ("mvai" / "mwei")

Papua New Guinea, Iatmul

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
field collected by Herbert Marc Lissauer, Melbourne, Australia
Hendrik Elias, Wieze, Ghent, Belgium
Jo de Buck, Brussels, Belgium
H: 27.6 inch;
B: 8.3 inch
1800 EUR / 3500 EUR

wood, clay, cowry and nassa snails, "Mwai" masks, portraying clan ancestors, always appear in pairs. They are are mounted on conical rattan and coconut fiber racks encased in painted palm leaf sheaths. The costumes are worn by younger, newly initiated men who hide under the rack, singing in howler pipes. Women dance around the masks and try to recognize the identity of the mask wearer by the legs. Thus, the performances also serve the approach of the sexes and the love spell.


Jo de Buck, "Hendrik Elias Legacy Archives", Brussels 2018, p. 69, ill. 4