The Elema people of the eastern Papuan Gulf region insoutheast New Guinea formerly practiced a lengthy cycle ofmasked rituals centered on the visitation of water spirits.The large masks representing the water spirits were highlysacred. However, other masks, called eharo, such as thatseen here, were created primarily for amusement. Describedas maea morava eharu (things of gladness), eharo wereworn in performances during two stages of the cycle, as aprelude to more serious activities. Most depicted spiritsand totemic species associated with individual clans orcharacters from local oral tradition.Eharo masks were made and worn by men fromneighboring villages at the request of the village hostingthe ceremony. As the men entered the host village, theresident women pelted them with shredded coconut toneutralize their seductive powers, which might otherwiseprove irresistible. The men wearing the eharo masks thendanced, surrounded by women from their home villages. Alighthearted atmosphere prevailed, and eharo performanceswere often boisterous and bawdy.