Asmat Mask


Irian Jaya

This mask comes from the Asmat tribe in Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Asmat was one of the last cannibal tribes known of. Its members, in the time of war, ate brains of their enemies mixed with sago worms from their halved skulls. Nowadays cannibalism is not practiced anymore.The members of the Asmat tribe believe that they arose out of wood, therefore, wood is sacred for them. Ornaments on Asmats' work of art abundantly vary according to their life's philosophy. Carvings include symbols of hope, values for hard work, bravery for the oncoming hard life, desire for blessing from ancestors, victory of wars, respect of women, salvation, etc. Every stage of statue carving, starting from going to the forest, finding wood, until the last stage, is embedded in ritual. The finished statue must be inaugurated with a ceremony, which is then continued in other traditional manners. During the ceremony, which usually goes on for days or weeks, every man, woman, and child, even the elders, must dance.

Beginning of the 60`s, the Asmata contact with the west expanded steadily. Merchants often travel to these areas to acquire their carvings and sell them. Asmat tribesmen have for long manufactured artifacts to sell or exchange with essential survival products. Masks like these are not particularly used in ceremonies but are engraved to portray the live and cultures of the Asmats.

Wood , Raffia rope

Height : 52″ (132.5cm)