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Collection: Guy Spilers/Rene Van den Berghe
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A Papua New Guinea yam festival mask of an old horn-billed bird from the mid-20th century. This old ceremonial mask, also referred to as a baba mask, originates from the Abelam people, along the East Sepik River Region, of Papua New Guinea. Yam farming was an often the main crop, making up a large part of the Abelam society. At harvest time, villagers would gather for the yam festival ceremony, at which time the farmers who presented the largest and best yams, often claimed a higher status and social ranking. These decorative masks are an important element in the elaborate Yam Ceremonies held by the Abelam people. Baba masks are made and worn by men. This mask is a unique example of Papua New Guinea art and the meaning it has in their lives. A perfect adornment for your home or to add to your collection. This is a rare and unique one of a kind mask and is a stunning piece of art.
Close friends, Rene Vanden Berghe and Guy Spilers found themselves living a life of adventure they sought out and embraced. Born in Belgium just prior to WWII, they spent their youth under German occupation. After the war, the adventures continued with National Service in 1953-54 serving in an elite battalion: the para-commando platoon. After military service was over, Rene studied tropical agriculture and used a government grant to start a coffee plantation in the Belgian Congo where he only escaped by “the skin of his teeth” when he had to flee during the Lumumba Insurrection in 1961. He and Guy then emigrated to Australia where they secured employment as overseers for the Catholic Church Mission in New Ireland – running a plantation from 1962-72. Their knowledge, diligence and military training saw the plantation prosper despite tribal fights, earthquakes, riots and the occasional confrontation with axe and knife-wielding workers. Their practical skills were balanced by a love of art, photography and travel. A talented amateur photographer, Rene left an extensive collection of photographs of their experiences and travels. After leaving the plantation they traveled throughout Melanesia, French Polynesia and Micronesia, Europe, Asia and South America before settling in Nambour on the Sunshine Coast. They collected tribal art pieces throughout their travels to inspire Rene’s love of painting and sculpture.