Art: South Sea Spooks

While Michelangelo was furiously improving the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for Pope Julius II, a handful of Papuans were equally hard at work in a New Guinea clubhouse. They fashioned masks 10 feet high out of bark. Each mask represented a mythological spirit, but no Renaissance classicist could have recognized the 100 weird, bearded birds and sharp toothed half-humans who emerged, after ten years of labor, from the clubhouse. And Europeans, who like to think of art as immortal, would have been amazed to see the masks burned (after a month of ceremonial dances) amid the acclamations of the populace....

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