Artist unknown / Mai Mask / 20th centuryArtist unknown
Mai Mask
20th century

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Creator Name: Unknown
Creator Nationality: Asian; Pacific; Melanesian; New Guinean; Papuan
Creator Role: Artist
Creator Name-CRT: Artist unknown
Title: Mai Mask
View: front
Creation Start Date: 1900
Creation End Date: 1999
Creation Date: 20th century
Object Type: Sculpture
Classification Term: Miscellaneous
Materials and Techniques: wood, pigment, cowry shell, hair
Dimensions: H.21 x W.4-1/2 in.
AMICA Contributor: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Owner Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
ID Number: 85.51
Credit Line: Gift of R. Benjamin and Elizabeth Preus Aune

The Mei masks of the Iatmul people of New Guinea are not face masks, but are tied to a conical structure made of plaited fibers which covers the head and shoulders of a dancer. While similar in shape, the style and decoration of the masks vary by village throughout the Sepik River region. Mei masks usually appear in male and female pairs representing the ancestral sisters and brothers of a village clan. Each clan owns a pair, and when not in use, they are kept in the clan elder's house. The masks are also used in battle to frighten enemies into submission, and to impress young boys during initiation ceremonies. Since the 1960's many traditional villagers have supplemented their incomes by producing mei masks for sale to collectors and the new market opportunities created by growing tourism.

AMICA ID: MIA_.85.51
Component Measured: overall
Measurement Unit: in
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: ?The Minneapolis Institute of Arts

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