Vatlam hornbill figure
Mouth ornament for Malagan rituals
Northern New Ireland
Carved wood, shell and pigments
Second part of the 19th century
Height: 5 ½ in. (14 cm)
Length: 15 ¼ in. (39 cm)
Ex collection American Museum of Natural History, New York.
Purchased in 1891 from Appleton Sturgis, “but had been on deposit in the museum since approximately 1880”
Museum accession number S-2245
Ex collection Bernard Brown, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1965
Ex collection Irene Beard, London
Ex collection Michael Hamson, Palos Verdes, California
Published in: Michael Hamson, Oceanic Art, Paris, 2014, n° 24, pages 52-53
Grand Palais Ephémère, Paris
26 Nov. - 5 Dec. 2021
This bird figure (hornbill) is a dance ornament that was held between the teeth by a dancer or sometimes placed in the mouth of a mask during the ritual ceremonies of the Malangan (Malagan).
This exceedingly ancient ritual figure is one of the earliest Malagan ornaments to enter museum collections, as early as the 1880s.
Dr Jean-Philippe Beaulieu has written a comprehensive essay on this dance ornament.
Malagan dancers with mouth ornaments