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Male Headdress

Decorative plaiting, cutting, notching, metal coiling


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Language Group


Artist Collective

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Geographical Setting

Nueva Vizcaya



Making Classification

Decorative plaiting, cutting, notching, metal coiling

Making Sub Classification

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Anthropological Class

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Museological Class

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Museological Sub Class

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Tarnished metal; abrasion on bead; good and stable


Beak of a scarlet hornbill, brass, mother of pearl, rattan, feather, wood, cotton, yarn, horse hair


54.00 x 16.00 x cm

Artist Statement

Ellis, George R. "Arts & People of the Northern Philippines" (In Casal, et.al. The People & Art pf the Philippines. Los Angeles: University of California, 1981), p. 241


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The headdress for the exclusive use of a male Ilongot is an assemblage of rattan strips, the head and beak of a variety of hornbill (Buceros hydrocorax), incised small pieces of tin, and beads. The redness of the kalaw beak is striking, and it is indeed the same color and make of the earrings worn by a male Ilongot to match the headdress. Other than color, the small scale of the workings on the elements is also striking. The assemblage works as an armature emplaced on the head, out of which projects forward the large bird’s beak, to become an extension of the wearer’s face. The man is as though a bird. The work of the anthropologists Renato Rosaldo and Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo in the 1970s probed the complex that interleaved headhunting, knowledge, sexuality, passion, and the reddening and body heat generated by that passion—including the exclusive wear of the kalaw beak headdress and earrings. Only men who have taken a head were allowed use of these signifiers of maturity.

Curator’s commentary
In such material as this headdress, the prosthesis-like extensions or amplifications of body parts like the head, in aesthetically refined material—typically understood to belong to the category of jewelry—in fact exceed the construct of jewelry as adornment, embellishment, or ornamentation. These body extensions cannot be construed as jewelry. The category jewelry, which is typically inflected by notions of wealth and social and economic power in a modern economy, does not encompass a kind of power that—in the case of this headdress for instance—pervades knowledge as occulted in esoteric realms, to be accessed only via an excess of passion such as that which explodes in cutting off a head. Furthermore, the power for instance signified by wretched excess—in the case of the notorious Jane Ryan and William Saunders (Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos) Collection—vests jewelry with extraordinary brutality. MPR


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