Carved and painted mask. [CW 3/11/99]

Place details: OCEANIA MELANESIA. Papua New Guinea. New Ireland Bismarck Archipelago. Local Name: Tatanua Materials: Pigment / Wood Plant / Shell / Plant Fibre / Plant Seed / Resin Plant / ?. Processes: Carved / Painted / ?. Dimensions: Max L = 440 mm Field Collector: ?Henry Martin Gibbs sometimes spelt Henry Martyn Gibbs When Collected: By 1900 Other Owners: Henry Martin Gibbs sometimes spelt Henry Martyn Gibbs PRM Source: Henry Martin Gibbs sometimes spelt Henry Martyn Gibbs Acquired: Donated June 1900 Documentation: See letter in RDF PRM Image: CD3.6 (August 2003); CD44.1 (masks) (Oct 2005)

KEYWORD: Mask / CLASS: Mask / ?.

Accession Book Entry - ‘H. MARTYN GIBBS Esq - Barrow Court, Flax Bourton, nr. Bristol June carved and painted mask, New Ireland’

Related Documents File - Letter to Tylor from John A. Gibbs, dated 16 April 1900, mainly concerning his cousin's Peruvian collection: "... I am staying here with my cousin Henry Martin Gibbs and he has been showing me a collection of Peruvian articles which he made about 25 years ago... I may mention that you possibly know my cousin's name as having been one of the chief benefactors of Keble College...". [CF 22/10/2001]

Display history: Possible old display label (found 2008) - New Ireland. Dance masks of painted wood and barkcloth variously decorated with bark fibre, grass, lime, seed cases, pith, and traded cloth, wool and glass beads. These tatanua masks, thought to represent ancestors, were worn by dancers in a secret society and preserve in their high crests the original style of dressing the hair for such ceremonies. [HA 07/11/2008]

Research notes: This is probably a tatanua mask. The following account is taken from Michael Gunn's caption to the reproduction of another tatanua mask from the PRM (1899.62.405) as figure 7 in Transformations: The Art of Recycling, by Jeremy Coote, Chris Morton, and Julia Nicholson (Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, 2000): 'Such crested masks are known as tatanua. According to early accounts, they were representations of the spirit or soul (tanua) of dead people. Today this idea is rejected by New Irelanders, who say that tatanua masks are representations, portraits even, of living individuals. As with many art forms around the world, it seems tatanua were designed to portray the locally conceived criteria of human, in this case, manly beauty. So this mask, like the other tatanua preserved in museum collections, is characterized by an elaborate coiffure, a wide, projecting nose, pierced and distended earlobes, side whiskers, a big mouth, and sound teeth. The tatanua were worn in public dances in which groups or lines of men were disguised by the masks and garlands of leaves and foliage reaching to their knees.' [JC 23 3 2001]