Tatanua mask

early 20th century

Dallas Museum of Art

Dallas Museum of Art
Dallas, United States

These men's dance masks, and the line dance in which they appear, are called "tatanua," which may derive from the word "tanua" (spirit or soul). They are associated with the "malagan" festival in Papua New Guinea. So great is the power of each mask that the dancer must remain absolutely quiet once it is lowered over his head. A supporting male chorus provides a voice for the masks. As part of the "malagan" celebration, the "tatanua" dance represents the renewed vitality of the living and their capabilities to survive and prosper. The masked dancers announce a return to order following the chaos in the village associated with death.


  • Title: Tatanua mask
  • Date Created: early 20th century
  • Physical Dimensions: 32 7/8 × 5 3/8 × 12 7/8 in. (83.5 × 13.65 × 32.7 cm)
  • Type: Costume
  • External Link: https://www.dma.org/object/artwork/4199937/
  • Medium: Wood, paint, opercula, shell, and cloth
  • Credit Line: Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund

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