About the object

Barkcloth is stretched over a bamboo frame, creating a light, fragile structure, which is impressive both for its size and its adornment. Kavat masks are worn by the Baining people, who live in the mountainous hinterland of the Gazelle Peninsula, during their nocturnal, highly spectacular fire dances on the occasion of special events - for example, initiations in former times, Christian holidays nowadays - together with other equally expressive types of mask. After the dance they serve no purpose; they are either discarded and allowed to rot in the bush or sold to foreign collectors. With regard to their importance, one can only say in general that they were connected to the spirits living in the bush. In modern performances, the artistry and aesthetics of masks and dances are of foremost importance. The Freiburg specimen is more recent and bears an Australian coat of arms on the brow area as a special feature.

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