Masks : New Ireland Mask

New Ireland Mask

Tatanua-Helmet Mask

This mask, used in funerary ceremonial dances, is made primarily of wood and plant fibers. The unique design of the face, including the broad, hooked nose, the large mouth and the impressive teeth, signify the elements of masculine beauty aspired to by New Ireland men. The mask is used to take on the representation of an ancestor or a deceased relative. The helmet of the mask represents a coiffure, or hairstyle, worn by the men during periods of mourning. To perform this ceremony, men grew out their hair, shaved the sides and then painted the skin white with lime when the time came for the ceremony. While men no longer wear the funerary coiffure, the ritual lives on in the form of these masks made to represent idealized male ancestors dressed for the mourning ritual.