Height 72 cm
Abelam people, Prince Alexander Mountains, PNG
The baba mask is worn in ceremony by a man, with his body totally covered by a flowing fibrous grass skirt made from sago leaves. The mask is made of tightly woven cane and generally represents a bird – in this case a cockatoo – and the faces are brightly painted. In ceremony, the dancer wearing this mask carries a stick or short spear; he represents a spirit, and generally appears before the beginning of important rituals. His purpose is to clear the area of any evil spirits and also to keep women and children at bay. In earlier times, these confrontations between the Baba and the spectators could be quite violent, resulting in bad injuries or even death. The spirits were considered all powerful, and to be obeyed, but also it was a control mechanism by the Big Men over the population.