Dance mask


The dancers at malagan death rituals, during which both creator spirits and ancestors came back to life for a short period of time, wore colourful mask costumes. The human features of the masks imaginatively blended with representations of birds, fish, pigs, and reptiles. Their eyes with snail shell inlays allow the carved masks to appear almost alive. The caterpillar-like hairstyle of these tatanua masks is reminiscent of the hair of close relatives during the months of mourning.

Object data

Inv. No.


Object Name

Dance mask


H. I. Parkinson



Accession Date



Wood, rotang, pigment, turbo snail operculum, plant fibres, cotton cloth

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