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BERRY, Alex; Sar (headdresses)

Bold colour, dynamic pattern and vertiginous scale are characteristic of the works by artists from the New Britain and Sepik regions of Papua New Guinea. These headdresses created by the Baining and Sulka men are customarily ephemeral, either because they are made of organic materials or because they are intended for use on only one occasion. Directly associated with powerful spirit beings or forces, when used in performance they evoke the potency of these beings.

Accompanied by the rousing rhythms of drums, a chorus of chanting voices and the heady scent of flowers and leaves, the performance of these objects is designed to engage both audiences and ancestral spirits. The performances are believed to assist in resolving communal conflicts and influencing social processes, from the transition of life to death, to the abundant growth of crops, or even the success of a local business venture. These contemporary works use commercial paint, plastic and cane, as well as feathers, and show the transition from natural to synthetic materials, and from performance piece to museum object.