, Ambusap [bridal veil] Enlarge 1 /2
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Iatmul people East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
Ambusap [bridal veil] Mid 20th century prior to 1953. Place made: Sepik River, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea Melanesia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, shell, fibre hand twined
Dimensions: 77.0 h x 20.0 w x 12.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2008
Accession No: NGA 2008.175

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Sepik River in northern Papua New guinea is home to some of the richest arts of the pacific and the adornment made for marriages are some of the most ornate within Melanesia.

This veil, called Ambusap, is covered in tiny shells each one being pierced twice for attachment to the woven base of the veil. Worn by young women over the head and draped down the back when they first step into the house of their husband, they are the most treasured heirloom of a woman’s wedding regalia. Occasionally veils are used by men who wear them when re-enacting mythological events involving female ancestors. This particular veil demonstrates the tightest hand-binding technique and great attention in the application of the scaled shell decorations. The tip of the veil terminates in a crocodiles head - a powerful symbol of cultural identity for the Iatmul people who believe their lives are ruled by a giant ancestral crocodile. Indeed their land is believed to be the back of the giant crocodile and each seasonal flood is the crocodile going deeper into the water.

Crispin Howarth
Curator, Pacific Arts

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra