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Helmet Mask (Temes Mbalmbal)

Date:
mid-20th century
Geography:
Vanuatu, Southwest Malakula
Culture:
Southwest Malakula
Medium:
Wood, vegetable fiber, pig tusks, glass, metal, paint
Dimensions:
H. 26 x W. 15 1/2 x D. 19 in. (66 x 39.4 x 48.3 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
1979.206.1697
  • Description

    This dramatic helmet mask comes from southern Malakula Island in Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides) east of Australia. Many Vanuatu peoples have complex men's secret societies, which involve a series of ritual "grades" through which individuals pass, by means of initiation rites, festivals, and pig sacrifices, in order to achieve increasing religious and social status.
    The two most prominent grade societies in southern Malakula are Nimangki and Nalawan. Grade rituals in each of these societies involve the creation of brightly painted figures and masks depicting powerful spirits and other supernatural beings. This mask represents the female cannibal giant Nevinbumbaan, whose son, Ambat Malondr, sits on her shoulders. Nevinbumbaan is credited with the creation of the men's Nimangki society; this mask is made and worn at various stages in the ceremonial cycle.

  • Provenance

    [Everett Rassiga, New York, until 1965]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1965, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1965–1978

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
313546

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