Ancestor/spirit mask

Description:
An elongated head with round shell eyes and face painted white and black. The mask is drilled at the back and fitted with a hanging loop of split cane. The headdress and the nose, which extends to the base of the mask, is decorated with nassa shells. There is a spiral shell in the centre of the headband and extending down each side of the lower jaw and up the centre of the nose are smaller shells. The upper lift and the end of the normal position for a nose are over wrapped with dried leaves fixed with raffia. Coiled black fibre used for the hair is fixed on with red clay. There is a pointed tongue sticking out of an open 'mouth' hidden behind the nose. The bottom is carved as an eagle's head, mouth open showing the tongue.

Context:
In Sepik culture, masks represent mythical ancestors, and are carefully kept and prepared for ritual occasions. This mask probably represents a male ancestor (female masks are broader), and may have been part of a mwai (mai) dance costume.