Wood, pigments, vegetable fibre, turban shell opercula
43.2 x 17 x 43.2 cm
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, inv. 1972.Pc.1
Archeology and World Cultures
Tatanua masks are generally worn at the conclusion of the malagan cycle of funeral rites, a cultural tradition shared by a number of linguistic groups in the north of New Ireland. The large crest alludes to the hairstyle worn by men in mourning. During a performance, dancers move in lines in front of spectators to the music of a male chorus and the beat of a slit drum. This type of mask was previously construed as embodying the spirit of the departed, but recent interviews indicate that, at least now, it instead represents standards of male beauty. In the last few decades, tatanua masks have also begun to be worn during new, non-funerary, dances.