Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Eharo Mask

early 20th century
Papua New Guinea, Orokolo village, Papuan Gulf
Elema people
Barkcloth, cane, paint
H. 29 1/2 x W. 21 x D. 16 in. (74.9 x 53.3 x 40.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1972
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
The Elema people of the Papuan Gulf in southeast New Guinea formerly practiced an elaborate cycle of masked rituals. While some mask types were sacred, others, such as this eharo mask, were created primarily for amusement. To the Elema eharo were "maea morava eharu" ("things of gladness"), danced as a prelude to more sacred rituals. Eharo represent supernatural beings as well as humorous figures, such as lecherous old men.
They were made and worn by young men from neighboring villages at the request of the village hosting the ceremony. As they entered the host village, the women pelted them with shredded coconut to neutralize their seductive powers. Now harmless, the eharo danced surrounded by large groups of women to the amusement of the assembled crowd.
#1747: Eharo Mask, Part 1
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#1747: Eharo Mask, Part 2
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Francis Edgar Williams, Papua, New Guinea, until 1940; Ralph C. Altman, Los Angeles, until 1958; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1958, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1958–1972; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1972–1978

Williams, Francis Edgar. Drama of Orokolo: The Social and Ceremonial Life of the Elema. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940, p. 265-66, 269, 274-282, 287-289, 290, 291.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 193.

Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 92.

Smidt, Dirk A.M. Sculptuur uit Afrika en Oceanië: een keuze uit de collecties van leden van de Vereniging Vrienden van Ethnografica. Otterlo: Kröller-Müller Museum, 1990–1991, p. 316, no. 119.

Young, Michael W., and Julia Clark. An Anthropologist in Papua: The Photography of F.E. Williams, 1922–39. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001, pp. 200, 201.

Robert L. Welsch, Virginia-Lee Webb, and Sebastian Haraha. Coaxing the Spirits to Dance: Art and Society in the Papuan Gulf of New Guinea. Hanover: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2006–2007, pp. 26-8, fig. 42.

Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, no. 78, pp. 126–28.

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