Apouema mask figure

Total height: 29.3 cm. Maximum width: 19 cm. Depth: 5cm rim / nose: 7cm


Wood carved in low relief

Presumed date of origin: 19th century or earlier
Kanak population
Grande Terre, Central region
New Caledonia

Mask found at a Bordeaux flea market
Renaud Vanuxem Collection, Paris

This mask, with its remarkable patina of use synonymous with great age, represents a human face. The circumference is adorned with holes for the attachment of the headdress and neckpiece on the one hand, and the beard and cloak on the other. The whole was blackened with bancoul nut powder (Aleurites molluccana Willd).
The almond-shaped eyes are not pierced, as the wearer looked through the mouth opening.
The nose is curved with flattened nostrils. The lipless mouth is limited to a simple opening. The chin is stylized by an inclined plane projecting forward.

Absent from mourning rituals like the masks from the north of Grande Terre, the mask from the center and south is more the image of a protean divinity.
Rejected by the first missionaries, the mask quickly disappeared as evangelization efforts progressed.

This model is similar to the one kept at the Musée du Quai Branly donated by André Vayson de Pradennes (Inv. n°71.1950.30.200), and to the one from the former Maurice de Vlaminck collection kept at the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle et d’Ethnographie de Lille (Inv n° 997.6.2).

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