I’ve been starting my Art Around the World posts with “hello” in the language of the country featured. I don’t think I can do that this time. I just learned that there are around 800 Papuan languages. I spent way too long researching it, because I found it fascinating. Actually come to think of it, I think I never added the hello to the Nigeria post. This rambling is not a good way to start a post.
Let’s talk about some art already.
Isn’t this just fantastic? This mask was made in the province of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea which is in the Melanesia Islands in the Pacific, north of Australia.
The mask is a helmet as well and is worn in a malagan which is a festival commemorating the deceased to help them transition from the world of the living to that of the dead. These masks were worn by dancers to represent the spirits of specific dead people. You can see more pictures of a malagan festival, including masks dancers in action, at this site. The term, tatanua, is the name of the mask as well as the name of the dance.
There is a video of the dance from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts via the DMA Connect website. Once you visit the tatanua mask page on DMA Connect, click “Media/Resources” to find the video. The dance itself begin around 4:06. It has a pretty lengthy introduction.
Art Discussion Questions
- Make a list of all the reasons why people wear masks.
- How do these masks honor the dead? How do we honor the dead in our culture?*
- What colors do you notice? What do you think those colors could symbolize? (They commonly used the colors black, white, yellow, and red for these masks which are colors associated with warfare, magic, spells, and violence.)
- Watch the video of the malagan dance linked above and think about what it might be like to be there experiencing this festival.* If you have my free Art Appreciation worksheets, you could use the 5 senses one for this activity.
Art Project Idea
Have your students design a mask that could honor someone they love. How could you use the mask to memorialize your loved one? You could make it out of paper, paper mache, or even air dry clay on a mold. You can go crazy wild with it and do some plaster casting, which is one of my favorite things to do.
There are a lot of cool mask kits and things available online. I’ll put some links to some good stuff in the resources section. Please note, this post includes Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
- The page on this object from the Dallas Museum of Art’s “DMA Connect” covers all the bases for more resources. It has videos, more questions, links to more resources, lesson ideas, and more. If you like what I do with these Art Around the World posts, you’d like to explore the artworks discussed in the DMA Connect website.
- * The two questions above with * were adapted from the questions on DMA Connect.
- Four Corners: One Woman’s Solo Journey Into the Heart of Papua New Guinea–I just added this book to my wishlist. It looks great!
- Mask-making Products
- This one is 6 Paper Mache Masks already made. This is super easy. Just paint, glue on a bunch of cool stuff, and let your creativity guide you.
- This “Make Your Own Mask Kit” is super adorable and easy. Now I’m not 100% of the education value of making a pirate or princess mask, but who cares? It sure would be fun!
- This “Multi Cultural Ready to Color Masks” kit has a set of 24 masks that fold to be 3D, and they are all inspired by different cultures (African, Aztec, Egyptian, Japanese, North American Bear, and Venetian).
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Click here to find more art from around the world, and come back tomorrow for a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo! Remember you can get the whole month of Art Around the World posts as a PDF eBook in the Curated Connections Library!