Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

Welcome to the Spencer Collection

mai or mwai (mask)
  • unknown maker from Papua New Guinea
  • mai or mwai (mask), late 1900s–1977
  • Where object was made: Middle Sepik, Papua New Guinea
  • wood, pigment, cowrie shells, chicken feathers, plant fiber, carving
  • Object Height/Width/Depth: 52 x 27 x 11 cm
    Object Height/Width/Depth: 20 1/2 x 10 5/8 x 4 5/16 in
  • Gift of Jean S. Lighton
  • Not on display
  • 2007.2868

The bird-like face has a long thin bead, ending in a bird head. It has cowrie shell eyes within vertical brown stripes with white and pink horizontal stripes that curve in front of a yellow forehead. The stripes narrow on the lateral aspect of the face, the remainder of which is white, but pick up again on the mask behind the face so it travels down and behind the beak. The back panel of the mask is decorated with two similar bands in decoration and color. The beak itself is white, with a brown band, and a white bird head at the end. Yellow and white feathers outline the bottom 2/3 of the back panel of the mask.