An image of Gable mask from ceremonial house facade

attrib. Kapriman people

(Papua New Guinea  – )

Gable mask from ceremonial house facade

Other titles:
Gable mask
Not on display
Further information

Across the Sepik, spectacular ceremonial houses are found in every village. They are known as 'geko', 'ŋgaigo' or 'ngeko' in Iatmul, and 'haus tambaran' in Pidgin. In the Middle Sepik, the 'geko' embodies the paramount female ancestor whose enormous face appears on the gable and whose name is given to the house. Clans descending from a common ancestor build the 'geko', where cult objects are stored. Only men who are initiated are permitted inside the 'geko' and, during ritual ceremonies, the house becomes 'hot', indicating the presence of spirits.

Gable masks are either carved from wood or woven using split rattan cane and are hung high above the entrance of the 'geko'. Woven examples such as this feature prominent foreheads, separately attached ears and broad, open mouths filled with fine teeth.

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

Place of origin
Blackwater River, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
Cultural origin
probably Kapriman people
mid 20th century
Ceremonial object
woven rattan cane, natural pigments, cassowary feathers (Casuarius), wood
181.5 x 102.0 x 51.0 cm
Purchased 1964
Accession number
© Kapriman people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics