Known as a 'bapa' mask, this large, woven fiber helmet was worn by members of a secret society prior to male initiation ceremonies taking place. Its role was to frighten the women and children away from the area. Bapa masks were also supposed to allow the participating initiates to do their very best.
These rattan creations are marvels of fiber weaving, blending basket-like forms and three-dimensional, openwork elements into surreal abstractions to fit over the head of the wearer. Heavy remains of red pigment along with traces of white and black, overall.
This old example measures 17.5"L x 13"H x 10"W and is in fine condition, except for the losses to the cassowary bird feathers which once were tucked into the crown. From the early 20th century, Abelam people, Maprik area, Papua New Guinea. Provenance: William Brill collection, NYC, 1970's.