Peu documentés et relevant de traditions aujourd'hui disparues, ces masques jouaient vraisemblablement un rôle important au sein des rituels Tebat na Lobune rappelant le lien sacré entre les hommes et les ignames, et lors du passage au grade le plus élevé des hommes initiés (Huffman in Bonnemaison, Vanuatu, 1996, p. 23 et 24).
Si chacun offre une sculpture très individualisée, tous partagent les mêmes caractéristiques formelles, et une patine profonde attestant leur grande ancienneté. Au sein de ce restreint corpus ce masque s’affirme par le contraste magistral entre les aplats et les volumes projetés en haut-relief, notamment l’imposant nez.
Among the currently recorded Juban / Chubwan masks of the southern part of Pentecost Island and north-eastern Malakula (Vanuatu archipelago) two types exist:
one with a narrow face and the forehead as their widest part; the cheeks are hollow, the mouth almond-shaped. Of particular relevance within this style are the mask kept at the Museum für Völkerkunde in Basel, collected by Felix Speiser during his famous 1910-1912 expedition (No. Vb 4561); the mask from the George Ortiz collection (Sotheby's, London, 29 June 1978, No. 119), and the two masks collected by Reverend Alexander Morton (Sotheby's, New York, 17 November 2006, No. 234 and Sotheby's, Paris, 11 June 2008, No. 57). The second type is equally rare, but differs from the former in the construction of the face as a very wide oval, with parted lips stretching from the chin to the temples as is the case here. Notable within this style is another mask collected by Speiser between 1910 and 1912 in the Museum für Völkerkunde in Basel (no. Vb. 4560), and the one displayed during the Melanesia exhibition at the Burawoy Gallery, in 1976.
Little documented and belonging to traditions that have now disappeared, these masks probably played an important role in the Tebat na Lobune rituals celebrating the sacred bond between men and yams, and in the transition of initiated men to the highest status (Huffman in Bonnemaison, Vanuatu, 1996, pp. 23 and 24). Although each one is very individualized in its carving and appearance, all share similar formal characteristics, and a deep patina attesting to their great age. Within this limited corpus, this mask stands out for the masterful contrast between planes and volumes projected in high relief, especially the imposing nose.
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