Upper Sepik River Dance Hornbill-Ngalla Mask-New Guinea Art-Oceanic Art
You could be forgiven for not knowing where this carved hornbill originates. Maybe you are lucky and have a copy of Douglas Newton’s “Crocodile and Cassowary” catalog from 1971. In it he has a section on the remote culture of the Upper Sepik area called the Nggala which at the time consisted of 140 people living in one village between the Sepik and April Rivers. Luckily Newton discussed the one masking tradition of these folks called “Mba:ngk”—go ahead and try to pronounce that. The mask consisted of two panels of sago spathe with cut out mouth and eyes lashed together front and back with a carved wooden hornbill sticking out the top—see black and white image from the “Crocodile and Cassowary” catalog. The present wooden hornbill is a wonderful and rare example from this tiny culture. It is a beauty with somewhat menacing eyes and downward sloping mouth. The shaft has a nice dark brown aged patina. The piece comes from an East Coast private collection, dates to the mid 20th century, is 25 ¾” (65.4 cm) in height. The price is $1800.