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Dance Ornament

Arts of the Pacific Islands

The malagan is a funerary festival held several months or even years after the death of the person honored. Its purpose is to free the living from the spirit of the dead and to enable the deceased's spirit to acclimate itself to the world of the dead. Birds are the most common motif for malagan dance ornaments, but many other type of creatures, either real or imaginary, are known. Though only the carver and dancer usually know the symbolism of these creatures, the bird generally represents the spirit world. The small, flat bit behind the bird on this mouth ornament was held between the dancer's teeth as he performed in imitation of bird movements. The dances in which these mouthpieces are used are part of the concluding rite of the malagan ceremonies.
MEDIUM Wood, Turbo petholatus opercula, pigment
DATES 19th century
DIMENSIONS 7 1/4 x 6 1/4 x 12 3/4 in. (18.4 x 15.9 x 32.4 cm)  (show scale)
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CREDIT LINE Helen Babbott Sanders Fund
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CAPTION Dance Ornament, 19th century. Wood, Turbo petholatus opercula, pigment, 7 1/4 x 6 1/4 x 12 3/4 in. (18.4 x 15.9 x 32.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Helen Babbott Sanders Fund, 84.109. Creative Commons-BY
IMAGE overall, 84.109_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Carved and painted malangan dance ornament in the shape of a rooster standing on a flying fish. Painted in black and red with traces of white. Eyes of rooster are inlaid shells. Condition: Paint flaking off. Piece of the cockscomb has broken off and is stored with the piece. There is already a repair on this tip. Tip of fish's wing is missing. Old repairs: across tail feathers; on cockscomb; across tip of fish's wing (repaired with a nail under fish's wing).
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