Mwai Mask with Clan Bird Totem
Probably from Angriman village, Middle Sepik River, Papua New Guinea
Wood, various earth pigments, nassa shells, cowrie shells, pig tusks
Painted wood with many small nassa shells and larger cowrie shells set into mastic (tree resin) on the wood. Cowrie shell eyes. Pig tusks through nasal septum. Nose extension features a long-beaked bird (a clan totem). In the Iatmul culture, each clan (or group with common ancestry) has a secret knowledge of their own myths and of the characters in the myths. Clans would try to learn the secret names of other clans in order to give them power over the other clan.