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01 June 1984 —
29 June 1984

Masks of Melanesia

Basket work mask from the Sepik River, 1880. Photograph.


From the 3rd to the 29th June, ritual masks from Melanesia and Decorated Cakes will be on display at the Fisher Gallery in Pakuranga. The connection between these two seemingly separate exhibitions lies in the ceremonial role that each serves in the society from which they originate. 

Masks such as those on display are used by tribes throughout Melanesia on ceremonial occasions. They personify the presence of the unseen spirit world and are used when spirits participate in manhood initiations and funerary rituals. Similarly in our society when a person comes of age a celebration or ritual occurs. While this is not marked by the wearing of a mask, our society has developed the ritual use of highly decorated cakes on such occasions as 21st's, weddings and birthdays.

As with the masks the artistry involved in decorating these cakes has become highly skilled. A selection of Auckland cake decorators have contributed fine examples of their work. These range from sculptured animals to more conventional wedding and birthday cakes.

While it is hoped that the two exhibitions provide a stimulating ground for the comparison of two vastly different societies' approach to ritual, it is also hoped that the artistic work involved will be fully exposed and appreciated. So often with ritual objects the power of the associated celebration overrides the work of the artist. Isolation in an art gallery enables us to evaluate these cakes and masks by the same criteria that we apply to painting and sculpture, thus dully recognizing the artistic merit of the work.

Te Tuhi is open as usual during the Eastern Busway construction. 21 William Roberts Road, Pakuranga, is the best address to enter into navigation apps to guide you to the free parking at our door. Please call us on (09) 577 0138 if you have any questions.