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Traditions & Encounters: Art of Africa, Oceania & Native North America

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Gable Mask

14 3/4 x 7 11/16 x 4 1/2 in. (37.5 x 19.5 x 11.5 cm)

Unknown, Iatmul
Papua New Guinean

Object Type: Sculpture
Medium and Support: Wood, pigment, shell
Credit Line: Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Accession Number: 1973.139
Location: Currently on view
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The spiritual lives of Melanesian communities are dominated by Men’s Societies. The ceremonial Men’s House is the sacred dwelling place of the clan spirits, treasures, and of initiated men. Gable masks like this adorned the façades of Men’s Houses. Similar to gargoyles in medieval churches, these figures were meant to ward off troublesome spirits that can cause illness and spread mischief. Gable masks embodied powerful female, ancestral spirits.
[Gallery label text, 2009]

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