Ceremonial Fence Element

Iatmul people

Not on view

Although few examples still stand today, in former times the villages of the Iatmul people typically had three men’s ceremonial houses set on the village dancing ground. At either end of each one, 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 portraying the brightly painted heads or busts of ancestral spirits. The ancestor on view here is wearing elements of ceremonial finery. The geometric patterns on the head resemble the face-paint patterns worn by the Iatmul on important occasions. The chest is adorned with a series of crescent-shaped elements representing pearl-shell ornaments.

Ceremonial Fence Element, Wood, paint, shell, Iatmul people

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