Unknown ARTIST, Mask Enlarge 1 /5
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Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art
19th Century Objects gallery See nearby items

On display on Level 1

Unknown ARTIST

Torres Strait Islander people

Australia unknown – unknown

Mask 19th Century Place made: Torres Strait Islands, Queensland, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, woodwork masks, shell, resin, human hair, fibre string and natural earth pigment on wood

Dimensions: 42.0 h x 22.0 w x 13.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2006
Accession No: NGA 2006.1

Torres Strait Islander art and culture are distinct from mainland Aboriginal Australia. The Indigenous people of this region have had long-term contact with their immediate neighbours to the north in Papua New Guinea and to the south in Cape York, and they have also undergone immense social, political, religious and environmental changes since contact with Europeans and Christianity in the 1800s. These changes are reflected in the cultural practices, material culture, art, language and visual iconography that originate from this region.

Whereas masks are rarely made by Aboriginal artists, they are one of the main features of the Islander artistic repertoire. This Mawa mask probably originated in the north-western part of the Torres Strait, possibly Saibai Island or even a nearby coastal village in Papua. The majority of Torres Strait Islander masks are used and worn during sacred and secular ceremonies, initiations, sorcery and other customary rituals. Historically, the performance of rituals is a critical factor in maintaining relationships with the spiritual realm and also was a way of competing with and challenging and provoking other clans within the region.

Nineteenth-century Torres Strait Islander objects are rarely found in Australian collections, largely due to the destruction of cultural material that occurred with the arrival of Christian missionaries. Nevertheless, there are a small number of similar wooden masks held in major public collections in Australia and overseas.

Franchesca Cubillo


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010

The maker of this beautiful cultural object—a Mawa mask—is unknown, however, it is immediately recognised as being from the Torres Strait Islands, and created during the nineteenth century.

The majority of Torres Strait Islander masks were used and worn during sacred ceremonies, initiations, sorcery and other customary rituals. This mask may have come from the north-western part of the Torres Strait, possibly Saibai Island, or it may have been traded from a nearby coastal village in Papua New Guinea.

Nineteenth-century Torres Strait Islander objects are rarely found in either private or public collections in Australia due to the destruction of cultural material that occurred as a result of the arrival of Christian missionaries in the late 1800s. Nevertheless, there are a small number of similar wooden masks held in major public collections in Australia. Whereas most nineteenth-century Torres Strait Island cultural objects are repatriated from overseas collections, this work remained in Australia in private hands, until acquired for the national collection.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

Torres Strait Islander art and culture are distinct from those of mainland Aboriginal Australia. The Indigenous people of this region have had long-term contact with their immediate neighbours to the north in Papua New Guinea and to the south in Cape York, and they have also undergone immense social, political, religious and environmental changes since contact with Europeans and Christianity in the 1800s.

Ritual masks are one of the main features of the Islander artistic repertoire. This nineteenth-century Mawa mask was used and worn during sacred and secular ceremonies, initiations, sorcery and other customary rituals. The features of this mask—the elongated face, the open mouth showing bared teeth, the pointed nose and shell eyes—are characteristic of masks made in the north-western part of the Torres Strait, possibly Saibai Island or even a nearby coastal village in Papua. Fibre ‘eyebrows’ and ‘beard’, now detached from the mask, were held in place by the perforations around the mouth and above the eyes. The ceremonial leader would wear the mask to conceal his identity, holding it in his teeth by means of a horizontal bar at the back, and his body would be covered in a coconut-fibre costume.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014

艺术家:未知
《面具》(Mask)
19世纪
贝壳、树脂、人发、纤维线与天然色料,木制
42.00(高) x 22.00(宽) x 13.00(深)厘米
2006年购买
2006.1

托雷斯海峡岛民艺术文化与澳大利亚大陆原住民截然不同。该地区的原住民与北部巴布亚新几内亚和南部约克角的近邻已经建立了长期联系,1800年代与欧洲人和基督教建立联系后,也经历了巨大的社会、政治、宗教和环境变迁。这些变迁反映在起源于该地区的文化实践、物质文化、艺术、语言和视觉符号中。

然而,原住民艺术家鲜有制作面具,面具是岛民艺术瑰宝的主要特色之一。这种玛瓦(Mawa)面具可能起源于托雷斯海峡西北部,也许是赛巴伊岛(Saibai Island),甚至是附近巴布亚岛(Papua)上的海边小村。大部分托雷斯海峡岛民面具是在宗教和世俗仪式、成人礼、法术和其他惯常仪式期间使用和佩戴。历史上,仪式的举行是维持与精神境界联系的一个关键因素,也是与区域内其他部落进行竞争并挑战刺激他们的手段。

在澳大利亚收藏中很少发现十九世纪托雷斯海峡岛民的物品,这主要缘于西方传教士到来所引发的文物破坏。然而,在澳大利亚和海外的一些主要公共馆藏里收藏了少量类似的木质面具。

Franchesca Cubillo
弗兰切西卡·库比尤


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra