An image of Gable mask from ceremonial house facade

Sawos people

(Papua New Guinea  – )

Gable mask from ceremonial house facade

Other titles:
Dance board
Not on display
Further information

The settlement at Torembi consists of three villages, with the oldest village in a forest clearing close to swamps that provide sago for sustenance. Sago flour is traded for fish with their Iatmul neighbours on the river. Each Torembi village has two men's ceremonial houses, one for each moiety. Every ceremonial house displays the totems of the clans represented, while gable masks embody the spirits of the ancestors.

This mask, with its finely woven and protruding eyes, nose and mouth, closely resembles one photographed in situ in 1959 at Torembi by anthropologist Alfred B├╝hler. It is now in the collection of the MH de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco.

[entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 15]

Place of origin
Torembi Village, Yanget Valley, Middle Sepik River, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
Cultural origin
Sawos people
mid 20th century
collected 1963
Ceremonial object, Sculpture
sago palm petioles, black palm wood and cane frame, woven natural fibre, cassowary feathers (Casuarius), plant fibre tassels, natural pigments
136.0 x 76.2 x 20.0 cm
Purchased 1976
Accession number