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Yam mask

Description: Yams are an important food source for many indigenous tribes of Papua New Guinea. Men cultivate them and take great care and pride in creating the largest yams. The Abelam peoples hold elaborate yam harvest ceremonies and festivals, during which yams are displayed and accessorized with colorful masks. Larger masks, like this one, are worn by men during dances associated with the planting and harvesting of yams and during male initiation rites. Both types of masks resemble clan-specific pig-like spirits called baba. They act as mediators between the realms of the dead and the living, and between the time-space of now and the ancestral past. During male initiation rites, young men must defeat the baba in order to conquer the powers of the "other side." When placed on yams the masks create an aesthetic identification between the yam spirits, other spirits (such as pig spirits), and the men who grew the yams. The baba's dance costume appears much differently in ceremony than seen on display. The masks are repainted for each performance, according to the gender assigned to them. The mask is further adorned with headbands and sometimes other jewelry. The dancer wears a collar of leaves and large inedible orange fruits and the body is covered with a dense wrap of leaf strips.
Collection: The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Copyright: This file is licensed under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
Geography: Papua New Guinea
Subjects: Yams
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea - social lfie and customs
Abelam (peoples)
Abelam (peoples) - social lfie and customs

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