Friday, April 13, 2018

Papuan eharo mask


Three weeks ago I was  interviewed by the West Australian Museum’s Assistant Curator of Anthropology and his assistant regarding my  donation of a rare Papuan head- dress called an eharo.  I had donated it to the museum whilst on leave from Papua New Guinea in 1963.   The language group of villages where my school was, was the Elema.  I was HT of their primary school in the village of Arehava for almost three years.  I had heard about their 7 year dance cycle, which at the end of the cycle, all the head dresses were destroyed and a new 7 year cycle commenced.   Unfortunately the Christian missionaries disapproved of this as definitely non-Christian and in my time in Arehava village no dancing of that type was practised.  I read of an anthropolgist’s book, The Drama of Orokolo (F E Williams 1940) and on my first leave back to Western Australia found a copy of the book at the W.A. state library. 
Upon returning to Arehava after leave, I searched out an old mask maker and we agreed on a price to recreate an eharo for me.  The agreed price was, I believe, 12 pounds Australian.  My part in the construction was to shoot a number of Sulphur Crested cockatoos for the feathers surrounding the top of the mask.     As I remember, it took a couple of months and at completion the entire village accompanied a male dancer with the eharo delivering it to me.  I was a bit concerned that a nearby mission station might think ill of me encouraging the dancing and the eharo mask, but I didn’t hear any complaints.   I had the eharo boxed in a wooden crate made by a tame carpenter at the Government Station at Ihu and took it by plane back home next leave.

The recent interview by Xavier and his assistant Karen was thorough and interesting. Some of the questions about the villagers and their traditions and indeed, how I decided to start a career in teaching in PNG were among things I had forgotten but pleased to recall.

Xavier and Karen are working to set up an exhibition of anthropological artefacts with background stories in the soon to be opened new W.A. Museum.  Hope I am still around for that.

                                        click image to enlarge

3 comments:

Gillian said...

Absolutely fascinating!

Richard said...

How far is Arehava from Kerema in the Gulf Province

And in which direction ??

Kev said...

Arehava village is in the Orokolo group and is approx 52 kilometres west of Kerema.