Blue Mask


Among the artifacts from Vanuatu in the Ethnological Collection of the Vatican Museums, there is a mask which may have been used by members of a fraternity associated with yams. These types of mask are generally known as Rom, and were used during ole dances. This mask was sent for the 1925 Vatican Exhibit to show the rich and vibrant cultural life of Vanuatu, a Pacific island nation 2500 kilometers from Australia. This intriguing artifact is a polychromatic mask for secret societies. It has a triangular center body, two circular holes for the eyes, a tall feathered plume on the upper portion and vegetable fibers on the lower portion. Its principle structure is made with wooden laths and vegetable fiber bindings. The secondary structure is made out of vegetable fibers and covered by a “preparatory” painted mixture of red, blue, white, and black pigment. Furthermore, the edges of the mask are decorated with small wooden strips fixed to the principle structure with small metal nails. On the upper portion of the artifact there is a feathered plume with vegetable fibers and painted parts; on the inferior perimeter there are two tied tufts of vegetable fibers, long in the back and shorter on the sides.