Headdress (susiu)

late 19th century
Artist Unidentified, Pacific Islander

Object Place: New Britain, Papua New Guinea


95.25 cm (37 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Fiber, cassowary feathers, rattan, vegetable pith, and pigment

Not On View


Africa and Oceania



Maskers wore these elaborate basketry headdresses during initiation rites for young men. The human-like facial features recall Sulka men’s adornments, such as nose plugs and elongated earlobes. The back flap in the shape of a fish tail is said to be derived from a spirit that the maker of the mask had seen in a dream. During performances, a long skirt of betel palm leaves concealed the masker.


Acquired in Papua New Guinea by Consul Max Thiel; 1910, gift of Thiel to the Königlich Zoologisches, Anthropologisch-Ethnographisches Museum, later the Museum für Völkerkunde, Dresden (inventory no. 25907); 1974, exchanged by the Museum für Völkerkunde with Everett Rassiga (dealer; b. 1922 – d. 2003), Bern. Hèléne and Philippe Leloup (dealers), Paris. June 16, 1980, anonymous sale, Sotheby’s, London, lot 90. Owned jointly by Wayne Heathcote (dealer) and Maureen Zarember of Tambaran Gallery, New York; June 24, 1988, sold by Tambaran Gallery to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1994, year-end gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 25, 1995)

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel