An image of Baba or yau-baba (bell-shaped woven mask)

Abelam people

(Papua New Guinea  – )

Baba or yau-baba (bell-shaped woven mask)

Other titles:
Helmet mask, baba tagwa mask
Not on display
Further information

'Baba' masks form part of a full-body costume that is used during initiations. 'Yau-baba' masks are used in communal and private 'yam scenes' – displayed in the secret room of the yam-storage house together with 'urungwall figures' – to promote the growth of yams. They may also be shown together with shell rings in a private yam scene. A 'yau-baba' usually has its own name and is also linked to success in hunting pigs.

The pigments used on woven 'baba' or 'yau-baba' masks, 'urungwall' figures and 'bai' paintings are sourced from natural ochres and paints. Colours are believed to have magical properties if used with spells or mixed with certain ingredients.

[entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 24]

Place of origin
Maprik District, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
Cultural origin
Abelam people
mid 20th century
collected 1965
Weaving, Ceremonial object, Sculpture
coil-woven rattan cane, plant fibre, red ochre and white pigment
38.5 x 28.0 x 34.0 cm
Purchased 1965
Accession number