- Iban people
- late 19th–early 20th century
Originally painted white, this old and well used mask’s long sallow face with its parted mouth, bared teeth, and a jutting chin evoke the sly and menacing persona of Indai guru’, a female spirit that lurks in lofts and along the far reaches and edges of the longhouse. The mask was worn by an older woman who skillfully performed theatrical gestures. Depending upon the context, she attempted to scare children, who ran shrieking into the protective arms of their waiting parents, or she playfully harangued the masculinity of the male members of the longhouse and their guests in a comedic farce.
Among the Iban, the use of masks is often associated with entertainment and protecting crops. Made more often for pleasure than for use in serious rituals, the masks are not made solely by experts. This exceptional mask was carved by a very skilled hand. It also displays concentrations of patina developed with use and age.
Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2013.
Learn more about the Iban people.