a superb iatmul overmodeled skull
from an old spanish collection ,lassalette Barcelone
Private Belgium collection
overmodeled head PNG Sepik River (without base) Bone, shell, clay
private collection Dortmund
John Giltsoff Spain
private collection Belgium
Exhibited: - "The intimate, the collector behind the door", La Maison Rouge, Paris, 2004
The people of the Pacific island states saw the soul as the seat of the soul. A belief that is strongly expressed in the richly colored skull masks of the Tolaï or the skulls of the overmodeled ancestors of the Iatmul, two peoples of Papua New Guinea.
According to the worldview of the Iatmul of New Guinea, illness and death are the product of fault and are caused by ancestors. When a high-ranking person dies, some time after the burial, the body is exhumed and its head amputated. After being cleaned, the skull is overmodeled with a mixture of clay and vegetable oils. The goal then is to shape a face that conforms to the Iatmul ideal of beauty, even if it deviates from the features of the deceased.
Other skulls, those of the victims of headhunters, were similarly decorated and kept as trophies.