Skip Navigation

Mask (Rom)

Arts of the Pacific Islands

The prismatic form of this striking mask is characteristic of rom masks from Ambrym Island in Vanuatu. It is made of fiber and cane thickly plastered with a vegetable paste and painted in the bright and unusual color combinations characteristic of these islands. Long fiber "hair" is fixed to the sides and base of the mask. Such masks are part of an elaborate system of masks and hats worn by members of the secret men's organizations that regulate almost all aspects of social life in Vanuatu. Each grade or rank within these societies has its own mask type. When they are in use, the masks are believed to provide a temporary resting place for the spirits of immediate ancestors, most specifically, the grandfather.
MEDIUM Palm spathe, bamboo, coconut fiber, hemp, pigment
DATES 19th century
DIMENSIONS 37 3/4 x 8 x 9 in. (95.9 x 20.3 x 22.9 cm)  (show scale)
CREDIT LINE Gift of Marcia and John Friede and Mrs Melville W. Hall
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Mask. Palm spathe, bamboo, coir, hemp, pigment. Diamond-shaped human face, painted white, blue, black, and traces of red; visor-like eyebrows; large attached nose, open, upturned mouth. Long, thick, twisted tendrils of raffia hang from all sides. Armature visible from behind.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Ambrym. Mask (Rom), 19th century. Palm spathe, bamboo, coconut fiber, hemp, pigment, 37 3/4 x 8 x 9 in. (95.9 x 20.3 x 22.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Marcia and John Friede and Mrs Melville W. Hall, 86.229.5. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 86.229.5_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 86.229.5_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.