Mask, 19th century
Probably Romkun, Breri, or Igana peoples, Ramu or Guam River, Lower Sepik region, Papua New Guinea
Wood; H. 23 5/8 in. (60 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1978 (1978.7)
This mask was probably created by the Romkun, Breri, or Igana peoples of the Ramu and Guam Rivers in northeast New Guinea, whose masking traditions are largely undocumented. However, the pierced eyes and small holes on its periphery, which were likely used to secure it to a larger basketry headdress that fitted over the upper body of the wearer, indicate it was probably a dance mask. Among the neighboring Kominimung people, dance masks have similar imagery and possibly served similar functions. Worn by initiated men during ritual performances, Kominimung dance masks depict bwongogo, ancestral spirits responsible for the success of important activities such as gardening, hunting, fishing, and, formerly, warfare. In Kominimung communities, women and children are not allowed to witness the creation of masks. However, the entire community may watch the performance of the masked dancers.