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SPIRITS OF THE PAST

Eharopapua Albert Mispel writes: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York currently has an exhibition called Coaxing the Spirits to Dance: Art of the Papuan Gulf. Gulf art, and the old religious culture, died out in the 1930s as it was considered pagan. It had been a very rich tradition based on the 15-year Mahevehe Cycle as described by FE Williams and other anthropologists. There are great collections of related artefacts in the US, Germany and Holland but not much of quality in Australian Museums.

Kevin Lock was with me in the Gulf in the very early sixties and we had a couple of masks made by old men who still knew the techniques. Mine ended up in the Moresby Museum and Kevin donated his to the Museum of Western Australia. The story of his eharo mask is on his Lock Family Ramblings blog, and it makes good reading.

Eharodelivery The blog includes a photo of the mask being paraded around the village, which I am very fond of as it shows the different generations and their attitudes. Masks and shields are now being remade but the break was too large and the spirit has been lost.

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