Image: Kanak mask from New Caledonia

Kanak mask from New Caledonia

This impressive Kanak (indigenous people from New Caledonia) mask was most likely used during funerary ceremonies of chiefs. However, functions varied between regions and were linked with various spirits, including those of creation, the underwater world of the dead and of traditional money. It difficult to determine the exact symbolism and function of Kanak masks as many were destroyed by early missionaries and colonial administrators and no longer used from the mid 19th century.

The masks are part of a costume consisting of headgear, face and clothing. The headgear is associated with the tidi or traditional hat worn by high-ranking elders, and includes human hair cut from men who had performed funerary rituals for the chief.


Carl Bento
© Australian Museum


Australian Museum Collection E7646
La Grande Terre, North Central New Caledonia
Purchased in 1898
Wood, human hair, pigeon feathers, wicker basket


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