Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

Welcome to the Spencer Collection

bapa tagwa (helmet mask)
  • unknown Abelam maker
  • bapa tagwa (helmet mask), late 1800s–1965
  • Where object was made: Papua New Guinea
  • plant fiber, pigment, coiling
  • Object Height/Width/Depth: 27 x 22 x 36 cm
    Object Height/Width/Depth: 10 5/8 x 8 5/8 x 14 1/8 in
  • Gift from the Menninger Foundation
  • Not on display
  • 2007.0276

The helmet style mask is made of coiled plant fiber with a thick substance rubbed over large portions of the surface. There are two very large oblong red areas with a single raised coil around each and a nose-like ridge between them that hooks back on itself. There is a ridge with white vertical lines running crosswise to the "nose" at the top of the head, separating the face from a small knob on top of the head. There is one ear-like disc present on the proper left side and a broken bit of plant fiber where the proper right ear was. There is a white crescent of pigment between the ear and the red spot on each side.

It was intended to be worn by a yam during ceremonies associated with the yam harvest.