Asmat Mask

I do not believe in gambling or in the stock market…well maybe yes if I would have money to burn. But I truly believe that there are treasures out there for one to scoop up, provided one is knowledgeable in the field in question, and keeps his eyes and ears wide open.

In my time studying the canoes of Oceania I also gain knowledge about the culture and traditions of the people building those vessels.

So when visiting an antique shop on Oahu a few days ago my eyes were immediately attracted by a dark stained wooden mask lying on a chair. I took the mask in my hands and realized immediately that this is an old mask, and not a contemporary sculpted one.

Old Asmat Ceremonial Mask, Papua New Guinea

Old Asmat Ceremonial Mask, Papua New Guinea

I asked how much? Well, I’ll give it to you for $20.00 said the shop keeper. I handed her the money.

I knew of course that the mask in question is an old Sepic ceremonial mask dating to 1930-40, and therefore extremely valuable. The Asmat tribe is notorious for head-hunting, residing in West-Papua (Irian Jaya).

The Asmat people are considered the best wood carver of the stone age, creating intricately carved canoes, including model canoes that they offer to their ancestors. Important collections of Asmat Art are located at the Ethnographic Museum of Heidelberg, Basel and Neufchatel.