Dance Ornament

possibly Bena Bena

Not on view

The artistic traditions of the New Guinea Highlands, which stretch the full length of the island’s mountainous interior, differ significantly from those of coastal peoples. Although the region gave rise to the earliest known examples of Oceanic sculpture, an enigmatic series of stone carvings some of which date to about 1500 B.C., contemporary Highland peoples, with rare exceptions, produce almost no figurative sculpture. Instead, the adornment of the human body is the primary focus of artistic expression. For important occasions such as dances, rituals, and ceremonial
gift exchanges, Highland peoples adorn themselves in diverse and often spectacular regalia. Through their elaborate personal ornamentation, many Highland peoples effectively become living works of art. Often adorned in vividly colored face and body paints, individuals further enhance their appearance with festive garments such as aprons and belts as well as an almost infinite variety of
headdresses and other ornaments in shell, fiber, flowers, leaves, and the luxuriant plumage of birds of paradise, of which several species live within the surrounding forest.

Dance Ornament, Fiber, cowrie shells, paint, bamboo, possibly Bena Bena

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.