Exhibition: Spirit Faces | A new exhibition at the Australian Museum

Spirit Faces A new exhibition at the Australian Museum Level G Atrium

On February 12th this year the Australian Museum, opened “Spirit Faces” a new display using three connecting portions of the first floor - a small glass covered wall cavity and two long walls of large top-quality brand new glass display cabinets – to publicly present 19 “Spirit Faces” from Melanesia.

Most of the masks are from different areas of Papua New Guinea with a couple from New Caledonia and Vanuatu.  The display includes a large Kovave initiation mask from the Elema people of Papua sporting an elaborate face, showing strong use of Reckitt’s Blue laundry whitener, on a basketry base, whimsically topped by a realistically constructed Tilly (or Hurricane) lamp incorporated into the bush material piece.

There are a couple of duplicated pieces here which highlight the variety which is always found in tribal artworks – two tall and dark Kanak masks from north central New Caledonia, acquired by the Australian Museum in 1898, stand side by side; and two New Ireland masks which, though stylishly similar to each other, had totally separate uses, one being a funerary mask and the other an ‘Owl Head’ dance mask.

Photos and descriptions of these pieces, and all the others, can be found on the website: