TITLE: Rom Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Vanuatu
SUBREGION: Ambrym Island
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Ni-Vanuatu)
DESCRIPTION: Rom Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Rom Kon
PURPOSE: secret society; social control; spirit invocation; status
AGE: ca. 2000
MAIN MATERIAL: palm spathe
OTHER MATERIALS: bamboo, coconut fiber, hemp, leaves, feathers, pigment

The Rom Kon ceremony is performed by male secret society members to the beat of drums and seed shakers.  The remainder of the costume is composed of dried banana leaves, and each Rom dancer holds a wooden carving that symbolically represents a weapon.  The Rom dancers themselves represent evil spirits who form a wide circle filled by Namba dancers.  The participants sing songs and chant stories as they dance.  Gradually the pace builds until the ceremony reaches a loud and feverish pitch, then ends.

The right to make or wear a sacred mask carries high costs in Ambrym society.  Rom masks invoke the spirit of ancestors (generally the grandfather) and are important agents of social control.  The masks and costumes must be destroyed or disposed of after a dance to ensure the spirit does not haunt the owner.  The dances only occur between July and September, or at special celebrations, such as for the for the appointment of a chief.

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REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Vanuatu
YEAR PRINTED: 1998
VALUE: 30 vatus

This stamp is one of a set of five mask stamps issued by the archipelago nation of Vanuatu in 1998. This one represents a pair of masks from southwest Malakula. They appear to be adult initiation (circumcision) masks.

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REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Vanuatu
YEAR PRINTED: 1998
VALUE: 65 vatus

This stamp is one of a set of five mask stamps issued by the archipelago nation of Vanuatu in 1998. This one depicts a rom kon mask from the northern region of Ambrym Island.  The rom mask is integral to ceremonies for social control and ancestor spirit invocation by members of men’s secret societies.

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REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Vanuatu
YEAR PRINTED: 1998
VALUE: 75 vatus

This stamp is one of a set of five mask stamps issued by the archipelago nation of Vanuatu in 1998.  It depicts a crest mask from Gaua Island, one of the Banks Islands.  The use to which such masks are put by the tiny population of this island (fewer than 3000 persons) is not well known, but it is worn with a fringe of green palm leaves and a skirt of dried raffia. The dancer carries a pole on which colorful balls are skewered, with thin reeds decorated with white feathers protruding at various points.

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REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Vanuatu
YEAR PRINTED: 1998
VALUE: 85 vatus

This stamp is one of a set of five mask stamps issued by the archipelago nation of Vanuatu in 1998.  It depicts a mask from the tiny islet of Uripiv, just off the northeast coast of Malakula Island. The nature and use of this exceptional mask are not well known.

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REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Vanuatu
YEAR PRINTED: 1998
VALUE: 95 vatus

This stamp is one of a set of five mask stamps issued by the archipelago nation of Vanuatu in 1998. This one represents a handheld mask of unknown type and use alongside a traditional sculpture.

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