The Elema people of the Papuan Gulf in southeast New Guinea formerly practiced an elaborate cycle of masked rituals. While some mask types were sacred, others, such as this eharo mask, were created primarily for amusement. To the Elema eharo were "maea morava eharu" ("things of gladness"), danced as a prelude to more sacred rituals. Eharo represent supernatural beings as well as humorous figures, such as lecherous old men. They were made and worn by young men from neighboring villages at the request of the village hosting the ceremony. As they entered the host village, the women pelted them with shredded coconut to neutralize their seductive powers. Now harmless, the eharo danced surrounded by large groups of women to the amusement of the assembled crowd.
Francis Edgar Williams, Papua, New Guinea, until 1940; Ralph C. Altman, Los Angeles, until 1958; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1958, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1958–1972; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1972–1978
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 193.
Young, Michael W., and Julia Clark. An Anthropologist in Papua: The Photography of F.E. Williams, 1922–39. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001, pp. 200, 201.
Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, 78, 126-8.