papua new guinea, mask, moesgaard museum, de etnografiske samlinger, ethnography, collections, museum, aarhus, denmark

Savi Mask – Papua New Guinea

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We know, right?

The second you realized what is actually emerging from the mouth of this mask, you probably had a small twitch? We certainly did!

And so, according to the Iatmul people of Papua New Guinea, do the evil powers of ancestral and natural spirits when facing the savi mask, placed at village outskirts to protect residents. Thus not meant to be worn, but rather placed as a “guardian”, the savi mask itself is said to inhabit an aggressive spirit strong enough to keep the evil magic of enemies at bay.


Almost resembling the common childish behaviour of mocking, as we know it, all savi masks stick out their tongue in defense of their people, and in this case its reptile-like features certainly work to enforce an impact – now there’s a message we can relate to!

We wonder if the sticking out of the tongue might actually be more of a universal gesture of hostility than we thought?

You can go and stick out your tongue to the savi mask in the exhibition “The Lives of the Dead” at Moesgaard Museum.

//Ciara Coogan


Photo: © 2014 Jacob Due, Photo/Media Department of Moesgaard Museum.

Byline portrait: © 2015 Line Beck,

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