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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)
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CREDIT LINE Gift of Evelyn A. J. Hall and John A. Friede
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CAPTION 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 Evelyn A. J. Hall and John A. Friede, 86.229.5. Creative Commons-BY
IMAGE overall, 86.229.5_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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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. Condition: Very good despite small amounts of chipped paint.
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