Juban mask by Moses Watas, Bunlap

The Vanished Face

A Mythical Art Form Lost and Recovered


From 21st of April until 6th of June 2009

















The Exhibition:

In a myth, typical to the Hainuwele-genre that is known from many places on earth, the following is handed down among the Sa from (the island) Pentecost in the Vanuatu-archipelago:

“When he had become old, Singit gathered all his children around him and told them: ‘you have to kill me und bury all the parts of my body in different places. Before doing that, you have to carve a juban of my face that will remind you of me.’ This was done. The children carved a mask of their father’s face, killed him, cut him in pieces and buried the parts in different places. From the different parts of his body, the different types of yam came into being: from his legs grew the long yam and from his heart the round yam. His bones became the thin and strong yam, his liver turned into the oval yam, his intestines changed into the snaky and twisted yam and from his blood, the small red yam arose.”

Wan kaen stori i gat long fulap ples long world, long Vanuatu, long aeland blong Pentekos ol Sa oli kolem Hainuwele. Stori ia i go olsem:
"Wan de olfala Singit i singaotem ol pikinini blong hem, hem i talem long olgeta: „yufala i mas killim mi ded, mo berem ol pat blong bodi blong mi long ol kaen kaen ples. Be fastaem yufala i mas mekem wan Juban long fes blong mi, blong yufala i no save forgetem mi. Oli mekem olsem. Ol pikinini i katem wan Juban long fes blong papa blong olgeta, afta oli killim hem, katkatem mo berem hem. Aot long ol part blong bodi blong hem ol difren kaen yam i stap gro: yams we i long wan i gro aot long leg blong hem; yam we i raon i kam aot long hat blong hem. Yams we i bunbun mo strong i kam aot long bun blong hem, mo aot long leva i kam wan yam we i luk olsem. Gat blong hem i kam olsem snek yam mo blad blong hem I kam red yam.”

Even though the Sa have a remarkable cultural continuity in many aspects, the carving of the juban masks had been abandoned approximately sixty years ago. Partly due to outside stimulus the remembrance resurged and the art form was revived: In the early 1980s, an American and a French art dealer visited Bunlap. They had seen pictures of classic juban masks in a book on oceanic art and now they wanted to buy such masks to no avail. All masks had been sold or rotten away with no-one being able to carve them any more. They had brought pictures with them and informed the people that there were still a few juban held in the collection of the national museum of Vanuatu. The village community therefore sent a few men to the capital to examine the masks and to subsequently revive the art. Today, due to this reference to the archive, the carving of Juban is not only revitalized but also more varied and individual than ever before, a side-effect of the introduction of modern carving tools.

Olgeta Sa oli bin holem taet kastom gud, be kastom blong katem olgeta Juban i bin lus klosap siksti yia ia finis. Ol narafala man i bin kam askem, mekem se olgeta i stap wokem bakegen. Long 1980s tufala man Amerika i bin visitim Bunlap vilej. Oli bin lukluk olgeta Juban long wan buk long fasin blong ol man Pasifik mo nao oli bin kam blong pem samfala, be i no mo gat. Evri Juban ol i bin salem o i bin rotin finis, mo ol man we i save hao blong katem olgeta i ded finis. Ol man Amerika i bin karem ol piksa i kam mo talem aot se i gat samfala Juban i stap long Nasionel Museum blong Vanuatu. Olgeta blong Bunlap i sendem samfala man blong lukluk mo statem kastom ia bakegen. Tede, from hemia save i stap, olgeta Juban i laef mo antap long hem oli stap mekem fulap kaen moa olsem bifo.

The 20 masks presented both in Bayreuth and in Munnich have been produced after 1990. Today, they are not carved with stone-tools any more, as it was common until two generations ago, but with hammer and chisel. Stylistically however, the artists still refer to the few surviving prototypes that are carefully preserved in the national museum of Vanuatu.

Olgeta 20 mask long ples ia oli workem afta 1990.Tede, oli no stap jusum ol tuls blong ston, olsem ol man bifo, be oli jusum hama wetem jisel. Ol man oli katem folem fasin blong olgeta we i stap gud long Nasionel Museum blong Vanuatu.



Thorolf Lipp and Martina Kleinert




Closing of the exhibition on June 4th 2009


Closing of the exhibition on June 4th 2009


The Venue:

The Iwalewa-Haus is a unique institution in the German-speaking region, not only conducting research in the sciences of art and culture but also presenting the results in topical exhibitions to a wider audience. Often, the projects result from close co-operations with other museums or institutions and they are accompanied by self-published catalogues. The main focus is on the fields of contemporary art, popular culture, the media, especially photography and film, as well as on African modernity.

Iwalewa Haos hemi wan spesel institution long Germany. Oli mekem risej blong olgeta long kastom mo kalja mo oli presentem ol risalts long ol exhibitions blong ol man oli save luk. Planti taem tingting blong wan exhibition i kamaot from oli wokem tugeta wetem ol narafala museum, mo oli wokem buk blong hem. Namba wan tingting i stap long fasin blong laef blong nao, olsem foto mo video, mo tu long fasin blong laef blong ol man Afrika.


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