Arts of the Pacific Islands
On the island of Ambrym, masked performance is controlled by a complex system of copyright. Rights to the knowledge of mask and costume construction, as well as rights to perform them, must be purchased from the man who owns a mask’s copyright, and often only by men of certain ranks.
This rom mask was never meant to be seen as an isolated sculpture and cannot be fully understood without the dynamic costume, the performer’s movement, the accompanying music, and the audience’s response. Rom masks are typically adorned with feathers, barkcloth, leaves, hair, and other materials and are worn atop a costume of banana leaves. Each mask represents a specific ancestor spirit and would be performed publicly to show off a man’s newly achieved right to wear it.
Wood, pigment, plant fibers
21 × 11 1/4 × 7 1/2 in. (53.3 × 28.6 × 19.1 cm) (show scale)
Gift of Altria
Flat cantilevered diamond-shaped mask with eyes and nose in relief on lower half of diamond. Surface is of plant fiber paste over a wood and fiber frame. Blue, white, red-brown, and black pigments cover the surface. Portions of wood stick out around the edge of the mask.
This item is not on view
Ambrym. Mask (Rom), 19th-20th century. Wood, pigment, plant fibers, 21 × 11 1/4 × 7 1/2 in. (53.3 × 28.6 × 19.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Altria, 2008.26.5. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , CUR.2008.26.5_back.jpg)
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I find this to be very similar to modern cubist art.
and this too!
Well that would be because cubists, Picasso in particular, did draw inspiration from North African masks and the arts of the Pacific Islands.
These masks come from two cultural groups of Vanuatu, a series of islands in Melanesia in the Pacific ocean. Though perhaps aesthetically similar, the works of a cubist painter and these masks serve drastically different purposes.
The first example you sent me for example was used in rituals tied to important life events, namely circumcision. The four faces represent the mythical woman Nevimbumbao and her children.