TITLE: Batak Karo Gundala
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Sumatra
ETHNICITY: Karo Batak Toba
DESCRIPTION: Gundala Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY:
FUNCTION: Agriculture; Entertainment
AGE: ca. 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: natural pigment

The Karo people are a subgroup of the Batak Toba and inhabit the northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.  They have largely resisted proselytization and adhere to traditional animistic beliefs and practices.  Gundala masks such as this one were traditionally used to pray for rain at seed sowing time, or as comical entertainment for the community leaders during major festivals.

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TITLE: Maluku Islands Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Maluku Islands
ETHNICITY: Melanesian
DESCRIPTION: Unknown Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Unknown
AGE: late 20th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

The Maluku (formerly Molucca) Islands are an archipelago of over one thousand islands inhabited by mixed Melanesian and Austronesian peoples. Since Indonesian independence and failed attempts to form various independent republics, they have formed two provinces of the Republic of Indonesia.  Very little is known about the masked ceremonies of the Maluku Islands or of this mask in particular.

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TITLE: Atoni Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: West Timor
ETHNICITY: Atoni
DESCRIPTION: Handheld mask
MAKER: Unknown
FUNCTION: Status
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: polished hardwood
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

The Atoni people make up the largest ethnic group on the island of Timor, which is politically divided between independent Timor-Leste to the east and Indonesian West Timor. The Atoni use two kinds of masks.  Ancestor masks are used for funerals, adult initiation, war victory celebrations, and other ceremonies commemorating major social events. Handheld masks like this one are used for a quite different purpose. It is believed that these masks were used for a socially acceptable form of stealing when a villager encountered hardship. By covering his face with a mask, the mask takes the blame for the theft and the person wearing it is exonerated. The mask thus helps the villager maintain “face,” as it were.

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TITLE: Tami Island Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Papua New Guinea
SUBREGION: Siassi Island
ETHNICITY: Tami (Melanesian)
DESCRIPTION: Tago Mask
MAKER: Unknown
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1990
MAIN MATERIAL: sago palm tapa cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: rattan; wood; berry and tree sap pigments; feathers

The Tami people inhabit a small collection of islands in Papua New Guinea’s Morobe Province. They number fewer than one thousand individuals today. The Tami masquerade is part of the adult initiation (circumcision) ritual for boys and men. The tago simultaneously represents a spirit of a dead ancestor and the more recently, spirit of kani, a dragonlike monster that eats children and is invisible to women.

Tago masks are kept in bush huts off limits to women and children, who are forbidden to see tago masks and performance on some islands. On others, such as Siassi, women do attend the performance. In practice, women on all the islands all have seen tago performances and merely feign ignorance for form’s sake.

Each tago mask belongs to a family and has an identifiable design. They are acquired through marriage from the maternal uncle and passed down to the children.

The tago initiation ceremony was formerly performed every ten or twelve years, accompanied by the loud noise of a bullroarer (a carved piece of wood or rattan swung in circles on a string to make loud wind sounds). During that time, a taboo was placed on coconuts for one year and war was banned. More recently, it has been performed every two decades.

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TITLE: Flores Island Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Flores Island
ETHNICITY: Ngada
DESCRIPTION: Harvest Ceremony Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker near Bajawa, Ngada
FUNCTION: Agriculture; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1920s-1930s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: ijuk fiber eyebrows; buffalo bone teeth

Little is known about the traditional animist beliefs of the Ngada (also known as Rokka) people of Flores Island. All that is known about this mask is that it was used in harvest ceremonies in a village near Bajawa, probably to invoke a god or spirit to ensure a fruitful harvest.

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TITLE: Iatmul Sevi Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Papua New Guinea
SUBREGION: Middle Sepik River Region
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Iatmul)
DESCRIPTION: Sevi Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Protection; Spirit Invocation
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: wicker; pigment; plant fiber

Sevi masks like this one may be worn in dances, but they are generally kept on display in the men’s Tambaran House to attract protective spirits.  Masks often refer to a clan totem such as crocodile (as here) or eagle. Sevi masks have extended tongues as a sign of aggression towards enemies of the clan.

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TITLE: Dayak Hudoq
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Borneo
ETHNICITY: Dayak
DESCRIPTION: Hudoq Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Agriculture; Purification
FUNCTION: Agriculture; Purification
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: wicker; nails; paint

The Hudoq is part of a ceremony to drive pests away from fields during planting season and ensure a fertile harvest. The Hudoqs, wearing brightly colored masks and costumes made from banana leaves, try to frighten the spectators, who represent pest-spirits.  As such, the more grotesque masks were favored.  Heavy bronze earrings would dangle from its ears to add further motion and sometimes noise to the Hudoq’s movements.  They were worn with a wicker cap filled with hornbill feathers (missing on this specimen) and held to the face using a bite stick. They dance in large groups to drums.

Hudoqs might also be enlisted by shamans for healing rituals, to scare away the source of illness.

Hudoqs take different forms.  This one is part hornbill and part demon, and is a well known mask type among the Dayak.

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TITLE: Malagan Tatanua
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Papua New Guinea
SUBREGION: New Ireland
ETHNICITY: Melanesian
DESCRIPTION: Tatanua Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Libba Village
CEREMONY: Malagan Ceremony
AGE: 2006
MAIN MATERIAL: Alstonia wood
OTHER MATERIALS: wool; plant fibers; tapa cloth; cowrie shells; pigment

New Ireland is a large island belonging to Papua New Guinea and inhabited by Melanesian peoples. The inhabitants of New Ireland organize a Malagan Ceremony upon the death of a tribe member to honor his or her memory and ease the transition of his or her soul to the spirit world. The family members of the deceased fashion the masks to resemble the dead individual and to forge a link between that person and the spirit world into which he or she is passing. Only persons of high status may participate in the masked dance.

This specific mask was made and ritually used in Libba Village in 2006.

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TITLE: Abelam Bapamimi Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Papua New Guinea
SUBREGION: East Sepik River
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Abelam)
DESCRIPTION: Bapamimi (Yam) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Wapisaki
FUNCTION: Agriculture
AGE: ca. 1940s
MAIN MATERIAL: woven plant fiber
OTHER MATERIALS: natural pigments

The Abelam people of the Sepik River area of Papua New Guinea use several types of masks, many of them intricately woven of plant fiber. The yam mask (bapamimi) is not worn by the tribe members, but instead is used to decorate giant yams after harvest during the yam festival (wapisaki). Abelam people assemble at a designated village and lines up the yams, which can reach up to three meters long and weigh over 50 kilograms. They decorate them with masks such as this one, flowers, and other regalia. Everyone then discusses the planting, harvesting, the shape and size, and other details of each yam, much in the same way that gardening aficionados in the Canada, Europe, and the United States compare their own vegetables and flowers at prize shows. The largest and best yams confer status on the grower.

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TITLE: Atoni Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: West Timor
ETHNICITY: Atoni
DESCRIPTION: Handheld mask
MAKER: Unknown
FUNCTION: Status
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: fossilized coral
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

The Atoni people make up the largest ethnic group on the island of Timor, which is politically divided between independent Timor-Leste to the east and Indonesian West Timor. The Atoni use two kinds of masks.  Ancestor masks are used for funerals, adult initiation, war victory celebrations, and other ceremonies commemorating major social events. Handheld masks like this one are used for a quite different purpose. It is believed that these masks were used for a socially acceptable form of stealing when a villager encountered hardship. By covering his face with a mask, the mask takes the blame for the theft and the person wearing it is exonerated. The mask thus helps the villager maintain “face,” as it were.

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