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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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Hi everyone. I just scored this carving today for $25 and couldn’t pass it up. It’s in the style of a PNG mask. Well executed in my opinion. Deep relief and correctly painted and given a nice reproduction patina. It measures 24” x 11” so it is a nice display size. Carved out of two pieces of hardwood joined together and is flat on the back. At some point it was through nailed to a wall in two spots and the wire hanger was added later. I’m pretty sure this is not an original tourist tribal piece. If it’s a hobbyist piece it is really well done. I’m leaning toward a production piece from maybe Oceanic Arts or Bensons for restaurant decor but I may be all wrong. We did have the Tur Mai Kai Polynesian restaurant here in Kalamazoo that was entirely outfitted by Oceanic Arts in 1969. So I’m thinking this may have been in the restaurant as it was affixed to a wall at some point with nails so it wouldn't walk out the door. If it were just a hobby piece I believe it would have had a wall hanger put on it for easy hanging. The wood is dried and has small shrinkage splits and a good amount of crud on it so it has been around a good many years. Unfortunately I have no backstory on the mask. It was found less than a mile from where the Tur Mai Kai once stood. My wishful thinking tells me this is from the TMK but I may never be sure. Any input on the piece would be of great help. Wow! I can really ramble on about an old piece of junk!


"Anyone who has ever seen them is thereafter haunted as if by a feverish dream" Karl Woermann

[ Edited by: uncle trav 2019-11-16 15:45 ]

Nice find Unca T. My guess would be OA. I live a few minutes from their shop and visit often. I’ll show Leroy or Bob and we’ll see what they think. They both have an amazing memory.
Get back to you soon.

T

From the Oceanic Arts catalog. I don't know how long they've been making them but I think it's a long time. This one's a bit larger then than yours.

Thanks Nui! I shot an email to OA with some photos yesterday. Your visit may help a lot. Always good to have boots on the ground for research. My sister also posted some photos of the mask on social media here in Kzoo to get some input that way. I’m crossing my fingers but the clues to point to this being an important local history find. Thanks again for your help.

Thanks tikicoma! The collaboration of people digging into a mystery has been one of my favorite things about TC.

I received a reply to my email sent to Oceanic Arts. Bob confirmed the mask as being from their shop. Even better it was carved by LeRoy!! I’m honored to have a piece of his work in my bar. All the pieces are falling into place as this being from the Tur Mai Kai!

Congrats Unca T. Very , very cool double find.

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