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

An Abelam 'baba tagwa' mask is made from rattan through coiling, built up from a circular cane frame at neck level. This is often painted with natural earth pigments around the eye areas and with geometric patterns around the side of the mask.

During tambuan ceremonies, the wearer of the mask has a costume of shredded sago palm fronds that conceals dancer's identity. A garland of inedible bright orange and green fruit, called 'mban', is sometimes worn around the collar of the mask and leaves are often woven into the openwork of the crest and hung from the loop at the end of the nose. The wearer of the costume act as both a clown and policeman to keep the uninitiated from witnessing certain events.

The 'baba' figure is found throughout the Abelam area but the style of the helmet mask varies from region to region.

Place of origin
Maprik District, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
Cultural origin
Abelam people
mid 20th century
Ceremonial object
coil-woven plant fibre, rattan, grey, yellow, red and black pigments
45.7 cm height :
0 - Whole; 45.7 cm
Purchased 1965
Accession number
© Abelam people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics