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Tapirapé Mask

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Dated: pre-1993

Cultural Context: Tapirapé style

Origin: Tapirapé River (Xingu Basin), Mato Grosso State (Brazil, South America)

Medium: Macaw feather, Shell, Feather, Vegetable fibre, Wood

Technique: Cut, Stitched, Carved, Perforated

Inventory no.: 1993/02/007

A semicircular mask consisting of a wooden frame covered with feathers, around the perimeter of which is a row of thin vines and feathers stitched together.

The wooden frame depicts a face, which is detailed in red, blue and brown feathers. The eyes and mouth have been cut out of the wood; the eyes are framed with shell. Below them are two flowers made of multicoloured feathers from which black threads hang. From the mouth, with its visible teeth, protrudes a short piece of reed attached to the wood by a string. The perimeter feathers are blue, while the central feathers are red.

This type of masks, called "big face", are used by Tapirapé men in ritual ceremonies. In general, this type of ornament has a symbolic meaning linked to spirits and supernatural forces, in this case representing Karajá enemies. These masks would have been used in the tawa, the last feast of the cycle of ceremonies held at the end of June, where the victories achieved by the Tapirapé against their Kayapo and Karajá neighbours are represented.