The latmul language group occupies the main part of the middle Sepik River. It is mainly through its prolific and varied art that the whole of the art of the Sepik River has become better known.
Generally, each main ceremonial house has a teket, which is used in much the same way as a lectern during formal discussions. The man speaking stands beside or behind the stool and emphasizes his points by beating the stool with three bunches of leaves which are provided. The head is set up on the shoulders, the face is rounder, the transition between brow and eyes is not clear-cut, the eyes are circular, the mouth is large, showing teeth (also found on some Yuat River figures). The nose, with its wide nostrils is emphasized by the vertical line rather than the carving. The roundness of the face at top and bottom is carried though the whole conception of the figure including such details as the pectoral muscles. The holes at the side of the head are for ties of string fibre to hold a small band of cane to which decorations were attached. There are the remains of red paint on the legs. The face itself is painted white, with red at the cheeks and mouth with the darker linear decoration being the wood itself. In Iatmul society it was the privilege of homicides only to paint their faces white and black. The teket "are sacred and must not be casually touched and are not used as seats" (Gregory Bateson, 'Social structure of the Iatmul people of the Sepik River', Oceania, 2: 289, 260, plate 1, 1932).
revised entry from AJ Tuckson, 'Some Sepik River art from the collection', AGNSW Quarterly, vol 13, no 3, 1972, pg. 671.
Ceremonial debating stool
carved wood, conus shell, cane, red and white natural earth pigments
52.0 cm height stool; 136.5 cm height overall :
0 - Whole; 52 cm; stool height
Not on display
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Australian and Melanesian artifacts, Clune Galleries, Sydney, 13 Jun 1962–27 Jun 1962
Acquisitions 1962, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Apr 1963–12 May 1963
Melanesian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 20 Apr 1966–22 May 1966
Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 Oct 1974 -
Referenced in 6 publications
Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1962 Acquisitions, Sydney, 1962, 106. cat.no. 347
Peter Laverty (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly (vol. 13, no. 4), Sydney, Jul 1972, 697 (illus.). "The primitive art area is temporarily situated on the first floor. Exhibits are from the Sepik River, New Guinea, along with a grave-symbol figure from New Hebrides, in the left foreground". The Teket is seen in the centre of the room, together with other works collected by Tuckson in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Hal Missingham (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly (vol. 4, no. 3), Sydney, Apr 1963, front cover (illus.).
JA Tuckson, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'Some Sepik River art from the collection', pg. 666-679, Sydney, Apr 1972, 667, 671, 676 (illus.). plate no. 9
JA Tuckson, Art and Australia, 'Primitive art collection', pg. 76-79, Sydney, Jul 1972, 78 (illus.), 79 (illus.). Reproduction on page 79 show 'Teket' on display in the Primitive Gallery at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1972.
Tony Tuckson, Melanesian art, Sydney, 1966, 12. cat.no. 117