Yam Mask
Northern Abelam, Papua New Guinea
Wood, Pigments
1930s / 40s
14 x 6.5 in. / 35.5 x 16.5 cm
Height on custom display stand: 19 in. / 48 cm

This fine example of a classic Northern Abelam yam mask has a well-proportioned bulk and artistically clever headdress of two stylized hornbills.  The mask shows good age by the pierced nose and layers of pigments. Abelam life is centered around year-long rituals associated with growing giant yams, their most important food source.  The yams importance is also reflected in Abelam language by the large vocabulary used to describe the varieties and growing phases.  When harvested, long yams are decorated to represent spirits affiliated with their ancestors.