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Masks that represent ancestral, supernatural or totemic beings form an important component of the traditional beliefs of Torres Strait Islanders.

Called kara (turtleshell) in the Western Islands and le-op (face of man) in the Eastern Islands each kind of mask had its own name. Typically the name described the mask’s use or the ceremony for which it was intended.

Design elements included bird and marine creatures as well as human faces.

Masks were constructed of intricately designed turtleshell or carved wood.

Islanders continue to regard turtleshell masks of Bipo Taim (before the time of the missionaries) as the most characteristic and spectacular form of their art and culture.