Ceremonial Fence Element
- late 19th–early 20th century
- Papua New Guinea, Kararau village, Middle Sepik River
- Iatmul people, Woliagwi (?)
- Wood, paint
- H. 41 5/8 x W. 12 1/4 x D. 4 3/4 in. (105.7 x 31.1 x 12.1cm)
- Credit Line:
- The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1972
- Accession Number:
Although few examples still stand today, in former times,
Iatmul villages typically had three men’s ceremonial houses
set on the village dancing ground. At either end of each
ceremonial house, the Iatmul constructed a raised earthen
mound, which was planted with totemic trees and plants.
In some rituals, the ceremonial house was likened
metaphorically to a canoe floating on the river, which was
moored by tying it to a tree growing on the mound.
In some instances, the mound was enclosed by a wood
fence, whose components included post-like wood images
depicting brightly painted heads or busts portraying
ancestral spirits. The geometric patterns on the head of
the example seen here resemble the face-paint patterns
worn by the Iatmul on important occasions.