Lot: 36

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

Papua New Guinea, Middle Sepik, Iatmul

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
American Private Collection (1958)
Michael Hamson, Palos Verdes, California, USA
H: 21.7 inch 10000 EUR / 20000 EUR

wood, pigment remains, shell rings, old collection label: "2703 Sepik River Totemic Mask 22" PSW '58" - "Powte", base "Mwai" masks are attached to large cone-shaped frames covered with painted palm leaf sheaths and lavishly decorated with feathers, leaves and all kinds of ornaments. At the lower part of the frame a fringed apron is tied, which is supposed to hide the body of the dancer. The masks always appear in pairs, portraying clan ancestors in the form of brothers and sisters.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.


Meyer, Anthony J.P., Ozeanische Kunst, Vol. I, Köln 1995, p. 224, ill. 234 Craig, Barry (ed.), Living spirits with fixed abodes, Honolulu 2010, p. 206