One of the major focuses of ceremonial life among the Abelam people of northeast New Guinea is the competitive growth and exchange of long yams. The Abelam cultivate two distinct categories of yams—a small variety used as ordinary food and long yams, massive tubers that can be as much as twelve feet long. A man’s social status is determined largely by his success in growing long yams. Each man has a permanent exchange partner to whom he ceremonially presents his largest yams following the annual harvest, later receiving those of his rival in return. Men who are consistently able to give their partners longer yams than they receive gain great prestige.
Date: early to mid-20th century
Geography: Papua New Guinea, Prince Alexander Mountains, Middle Sepik River region
Culture: Abelam people
carved wood – vegetable paints – 10” x 5-1/2” (25.5cm x 14cm)
Item # 10050-M