Dance cape

Dimensions: 54 x 46cm (without strap)

Tapa (beaten wood bark), red and black pigments, fibers
Dimensions: 54 x 46cm (without strap)
Presumed period: first half of 20th century
Eastern Highlands Province
Papua New Guinea

Provenance :
Jim Davidson. Melboune
By descent to his son Malcom Davidson. Melbourne
JOLIKA Collection of Marcia & John Friede. Rye, New York

Published by:
Fine Art Museum of San Francisco. New Guinea Highlands. Art from the Jolika Collection
Reproduced page 241, Fig.11.8

The stitching around the edges of this tapa and the attachment of a strap suggest that it was used as a dance cape.
These capes, used by the Benabena, Usarufa, Jate, Fore and Kamano peoples, were made from the inner bark of certain plants, notably the paper mulberry Broussonetia papyfera, but also the breadfruit tree Artotocarpus altilis.
The fiber was then beaten with a wooden or stone mallet to refine the material.

Once the process was complete, the fabric was decorated with abstract, geometric patterns traced in black (a mixture of soot produced by burning tuitui almonds with water), embellished with ochre pigment (macerated koka bischoffia javanica bark).

These capes were used in ceremonies that may have had a central pig-related theme, but various garden products were given equal or greater importance, and the ceremonies often became harvest festivals in which fruit, vegetables and other commercial products were shared.
In the Goroka and Henganofi regions, these ceremonies were once marked by collective dancing and singing. Body decorations and a series of characteristic emblems were made and almost always worn by the men.


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