Height: 34.000 cm
Collected by Ms Dorota Czarkowska Starzecka for the Bitish Museum
AOA Ethno 1980.Oc.11.209
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Yam mask or Bapamini, made by Gwaikwavi Wakaniambi
Sarikim village, Wosera sub-district, Maprik District, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, AD 1980
The Wosera Abelam people live on forested plains in northern Papua New Guinea. They link spiritual well-being and material survival in one cosmology, which focuses in part on their staple vegetable crop: yams. At harvest they decorate large yams of the variety Discorea alata (which can grow to between two to three metres long). The decorated yams are displayed publicly and are exchanged between men
When decorated, the yams represent ancestral spirits called nggwal. Nggwal do not act by themselves but must be encouraged with offerings, chants and decorations. The decorations used on long yams like this include masks, shell valuables, feathers and paint. This mask was therefore made to decorate a long yam, and to enable it to embody a nggwal spirit.