Headdress (Nalowan Nambatin avi)
Arts of the Pacific Islands
Throughout northern Vanuatu, men mark important stages of life and gain higher levels of political power by progressing through the ranks of initiation and grade societies. Advancement through each grade requires gifting valuables, sacrificing pigs, sponsoring feasts, demonstrating leadership, and mastering guarded knowledge. These ceremonies are consequently a platform for immense artistic creativity.
On southern Malakula and Tomman Island, life-cycle ceremonies are known collectively as nalowan and involve as many as a hundred different types of headdresses. This headdress type, called nalowan nambatin avi, is used during circumcision ceremonies. The four faces represent the mythical woman Nevimbumbao and her children.
Tree fern, vegetal-fiber paste, tusks, pigment
mid 20th century
30 × 32 11/16 × 30 11/16 in. (76.2 × 83 × 78 cm) [measurements include fiber] (show scale)
This item is not on view
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. N. Richard Miller
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Tomman Islander. Headdress (Nalowan Nambatin avi), mid 20th century. Tree fern, vegetal-fiber paste, tusks, pigment, 30 × 32 11/16 × 30 11/16 in. (76.2 × 83 × 78 cm) [measurements include fiber]. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. N. Richard Miller, 74.215.4. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 74.215.4_threequarter_PS9.jpg)
3/4, 74.215.4_threequarter_PS9.jpg., 2019
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A grade headdress of tree fiber with tusks and paint. The headdress in conical form, decorated with low-relief representations of four faces, tusks attached, emerging from corners of mouths in pair on each face. Four rods of plant fiber emerge from the foreheads, with painted base and fiber tassels and plant stems projecting from each, beyond the mask which is measured without them. The forehead and jaw line of each face is black with white dots. The faces are divided red and white sides and blue outlines. The top of the mask has red and blue zones in white outline. The rods have various colors.
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