Harold and Mary Cohen : The Papua New Guinea Slide Collection
Object ID:
6.01.0341.HMC
Place:
Papua New Guinea
Description:
A group of painted and costumed dancers stands in front of a second group of elaborately costumed dancers with rainbow colored masks, many circular in shape, others towering in height and narrow in width. Stormy clouds in sky in background. Lush green grass below. Central figure pauses, looking towards the camera.

Three groups of Highlands villagers are lining up to perform. The men in front paint stripes on the body and arms, popular in many tribes in Papua New Guinea, as is the camouflaging of the face — whether by paint or masks. For many clans, the performers are not to be recognized. The dancers perform at ceremonies, including for Sing sings, paybacks, mokas, and spells to cure sickness traditionally. The men wear large masks or paint their faces with the matching clays of white, blue—gray and orange. The wear waistbands made of twisted fibers from which green leaves hang, covering the buttocks. Each dancer wears a small cap that is colored with the same stripes as his body. The second group wears dancing shields (also called back staffs). These are huge bulky banners that are worn on the back of the dancers, some as tall as ten feet or more. Each structure is supported by bamboo poles or wood boards. H ammered bark cloth is painted or woven with symbolic designs of the tribe's ceremonial religious or cultural traditions. The bark cloth is then attached to the cumbersome structure. Each dancer must be assisted in its removal from his back. The third group of performers has very different dancing shields. All of the shields have chemical dyes rather than the traditional vegetable and clay colorations.
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