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​from the Elema People

of the Eastern New Guinea​            


This collection is inspired by the sacred ceremony of the water/sea spirits by the Elema people tribe from New Guinea. Both visual and audio design is research-based on the cultural and spiritual belief systems of indigenous tribes.

The project sees beauty in the belief of local nature spirits and the sacred ritual of a ceremonial cycle.



Still from "Ma-Hevehe" 2021
The Elema People collection




Several societies in the New Guniea gulf had elaborate traditions of mask creation and rituals before the mid 1950s when the Christians had largely abandoned their traditional rituals.


Surrounded by rainforest, rivers or the sea, each tribes in PNG had focused exclusively on local nature spirits. The spiritis were the core of the region's religious life, which can be seen as a visible embodiment on their creation of spirit boards, masks and rituals.

HEVEHE mask is a highly sacred enormous mask representing the spirits of a sea monster and their children. The mask took more than a year to complete and was stored sacredly in the longhouse.

"Carved boards and figure brought these spirits into the longhouse, and bark or rattan masks allwoed dancers in turn to become temporarily poseesed by them." (Weltsch 8)


After the ceremony, the sea spirits symbolically return to the sea, and the masks were secretly destroyed in a fire.




Mask ceremonies once in a few years were not just a carnival-like celebration, but "a critical moments in the community's life, during which all of the spirits came alive and mingled with the community." (Weltsch 12) After months of careful preperation and creation of the mask, the community welcomes the spirits to the dance.

Most dancers carried a hand drum, with a tympanum of lizard skin with beewax. During the ceremony for the Hevehe mask, the whir of the bullroarers was the voice of these spirits. 

R. Weltsch, V. Webb, S.Haraha. 2006 Coaxing the Spirits to Dance. 

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