TITLE: Asmat Bi Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Papua Province
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Asmat)
DESCRIPTION: Bi (Orphan) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Feast
FUNCTION: funeral; spirit invocation
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wicker
OTHER MATERIALS: rattan; sago leaf fiber; natural pigments

The Asmat people are a Melanesian ethnic group inhabiting the Papua Province of Indonesia, along the southwestern coast. They are thought to number around 70,000 individuals.  The Asmat celebrate a periodic feast, a series of rituals culminating when dead ancestors, personified by performers wearing full-length body masks like this one (Det), return to visit the village.

The rites involve two types of masks. The first is this one, a single conical mask depicting a legendary orphan (Bi), appears to entertain the audience with comical antics. The second type of mask, the Det, portrays the dead ancestor. At the climax of the ceremony, the masked performers representing the dead emerge from the forest and tour the village, where they are offered food and hospitality. They eventually arrive in front of the men’s ceremonial house, where the dead and the living join in a dance, which continues long into the night. The following morning the dead, now properly fed and entertained or frightened by threats of violence, return to the realm of their ancestors (Safan).

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TITLE: Asmat Det
TYPE: body mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Irian Jaya, Papua Province
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Asmat)
DESCRIPTION: Det Body Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Feast
FUNCTION: funeral; spirit invocation
AGE: 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: plant fiber
OTHER MATERIALS: natural pigment; wood; animal horn; sago leaves

The Asmat people are a Melanesian ethnic group inhabiting the Papua Province of Indonesia, along the southwestern coast. They are thought to number around 70,000 individuals. The Asmat celebrate a periodic feast, a series of rituals culminating when dead ancestors, personified by performers wearing full-length body masks like this one (Det), return to visit the village.

The rites involve two types of masks. The first, a single conical mask (Bi) depicting a legendary orphan and entertains the village with comical antics.  The second type of mask, the Det, portrays the dead ancestor. Each mask of this type represents a specific individual, such as a deceased family member or illustrious ancestor.  At the climax of the ceremony, the masked performers representing the dead emerge from the forest and tour the village, where they are offered food and hospitality. They eventually arrive in front of the men’s ceremonial house, where the dead and the living join in a dance, which continues long into the night. The following morning the dead, now properly fed and entertained or frightened by threats of violence, depart for the realm of the ancestors (Safan).

Normally, this mask would have a long fringe of dried sago leaves along the sleeves and skirt, but most of this has been lost with time.

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TITLE: Asmat Jiwawoka Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Irian Jaya, Papua Province
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Asmat)
DESCRIPTION: Jiwawoka Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Jiwawoka Ceremony
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Secret Society
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: plant fiber
OTHER MATERIALS: wood; natural pigments; animal bone; seeds

The Asmat people are a Melanesian ethnic group inhabiting the Papua Province of Indonesia, along the southwestern coast. They are thought to number around 70,000 individuals. Jiwawoka (sometimes written Jinokas) is an Asmat tradition in which masked dancers of a secret society initiate young men into adulthood.

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TITLE: Atoni Mask
TYPE: 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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TITLE: Atoni Mask
TYPE: 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: Barong Ket
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Bali
ETHNICITY: Balinese
DESCRIPTION: Barong Ket Mask
MAKER: Ida Wayan Tangguh, Singapadu (1935-2016)
CEREMONY: Barong Dance; Japatuan; Basur
AGE: 2012
MAIN MATERIAL: pule wood
OTHER MATERIALS: glass rhinestones; mirrors; buffalo leather; paint; gilding; human hair; gold-plated silver ornaments; brass bells

Barong masks are some of the most important cultural artifacts in Bali.  The Barong is a mythical beast that purifies and protects the village. The mask itself is a sacred object of worship and usually kept in a temple. Barong masks are taken out to perform dances and ceremonies on major holidays, most notably the Kunti Sraya, or Barong Dance. That dance recreates a contest between good (represented by the Barong and its followers) and evil (represented by the goddess of death, Rangda, and her followers).

Barongs come in many types, depending on the type of animal represented.  Barongs may take the form of a boar, bull or deer, for example. This mask, the barong ket, represents a mythical beast combining attributes of the tiger, ox, and some unique attributes. It is sometimes erroneously referred to as a lion (there are no wild lions in Indonesia, and never have been any, so the Balinese would not have been able to use one as a template for their masks). The ket is the chief of all barongs and acts as a potent protector against the harmful influence of ghosts on the village.

This specific barong ket was the last one made by the master craftsman, I. Wayan Tangguh of Singapadu, before he died.

For more on Balinese masks, see Judy Slattum, Masks of Bali: Spirits of an Ancient Drama (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1992).


Video of a Barong Ceremony in Bali, Indonesia, 2018.

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TITLE: Barong Macan
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Bali
ETHNICITY: Balinese
DESCRIPTION: Barong Macan
MAKER: Ida Wayan Tangguh, Singapadu (1935-2016)
CEREMONY: Barong Dance; Japatuan; Basur
AGE: 2012
MAIN MATERIAL: pule wood
OTHER MATERIALS: glass rhinestones; mirrors; buffalo leather; paint; gilding; human hair; gold-plated silver ornaments; brass bells

Barong masks are some of the most important cultural artifacts in Bali.  The Barong is a mythical beast that purifies and protects the village. The mask itself is a sacred object of worship and usually kept in a temple. Barong masks are taken out to perform dances and ceremonies on major holidays, most notably the Kunti Sraya, or Barong Dance. That dance recreates a contest between good (represented by the Barong and its followers) and evil (represented by the goddess of death, Rangda, and her followers).

Barongs come in many types, depending on the type of animal represented.  Barongs may take the form of a boar, bull or deer, for example. This mask, the barong macan, represents a tiger, the most fearsome animal in Indonesia. The macan maintains balance between the physical and spiritual worlds, and acts as a potent protector against the harmful influence of ghosts on the village.

This specific barong macan was the last one made by the master craftsman, I. Wayan Tangguh of Singapadu, before he died.

For more on Balinese masks, see Judy Slattum, Masks of Bali: Spirits of an Ancient Drama (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1992).


Video of a Barong Ceremony in Bali, Indonesia, 2018.

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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: Dayak Demon Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Borneo
ETHNICITY: Dayak
DESCRIPTION: Dayak Demon Bukong
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Unknown
FUNCTION: Agriculture; Purification
AGE: 1880s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment

Not much is known about the masked ceremonies of the South Kalimantan region of Borneo. This mask dates to the late 19th century and represents a demon.  Stylistically, it shows traces of Hindu influence from Javanese settlers, transmitted to the settlers from Indian traders in previous centuries.  Such masks were most probably used to drive away evil spirits from the village during important ceremonies, such as funerals, and from crop fields.

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TITLE: Dayak Hudoq
TYPE: 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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