Keram River Crocodile Nose Mask-New Guinea Art-Oceanic Art
Much of the early Sepik River art depicts transformation and metamorphosis of man, crocodile and bird. This old mask from the Keram River, south of the Lower Sepik River, depicts all three. There is of course the downward facing bird on the forehead, then the long nose as seen in profile is the toothy snout of a crocodile and the yellow motif below the eyes are bird wings. This is the only mask I have encountered with the nose being the long jaws of a crocodile. Its age is evident in the large diamond-shaped holes around the perimeter that allowed the mask to be lashed to a dance costume and the very old patina on the backside. The piece comes from a Saint Louis, Missouri collection (with an unknown collection inventory number 824-O painted in white), dates to the early 20th century or before, is large at 24 1/8” (61.2 cm).