Masking and Ritual Theater
of the Baining and Gimi Peoples of Papua New Guinea

February 6-March 27, 1986

Ceremonies of the Gimi: Photographs
by David Gillison

Art of the Chachet, Kairak, and Uramot Baining of New Britain, Papua New Guinea
by Dr. George A. Corbin

Gimi Mask
Photo: David Gillison




It is with great pleasure that we present an exhibition based on the fieldwork of two members of the art department at Lehman College, both of whom have done primary research in one of the most remote, least explored regions remaining in the world today. Inhabited by peopIes without a written history, whose tools and agricultural techniques scarcely differ from those used in the Stone Age, much of the territory that is now Papua New Guinea has been visited only by missionaries and colonial administrators.

Despite their generic similarities, the artifacts and ceremonies of these peoples vary considerably from place to place. Wholly distinct cultures with different languages exist in relatively close proximity. The Baining make strikingly expressive boldly patterned accoutrements for use in ceremonies that seem, by Western standards, almost unstructured. The Gimi adorn themselves with fantastic costumes made of plants, earth, and feathers for performances that reflect common experience in dramatic form. Baining objects, discarded after use, can be preserved for study and for the enjoyment of outsiders; the art of the Gimi can be captured only on film.

The masks, painted bark cloth, and drawings of the gaining people on display in the Gallery are from the collection of George and Sarah Corbin. They were acquired by Dr. Corbin while conducting art historical field research in East New Britain in 1972-1973 and 1982-1983. Most of the photographs of the Baining were taken by Dr. Corbin during these two field expeditions. David Gillison's extraordinary color photographs of the Gimi were taken in 1981 and 1983 ire the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea as part of a
long-term study of Gimi speaking people of Unavi Census Division. Gillison a photographer and artist, and his wife Gillian, an anthropologist, first went to live among the Gimi of Ubaigubi village in 1973 and are still engaged in the study of their art, myth, ritual, and kinship.

We are privileged indeed to share George Corbin and David Gillison's unusual experience and unique knowledge of two cultures which surely soon will change beyond recognition under the impact of Western ways.

Nina Castelli Sundell

Director, Lehman College Art Gallery