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Pacific art

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Yupini (fertility figure)

(mid 20th century)
collected 1963


Unknown Artist


Illness or misfortune among the Enga and Ipili people was customarily attributed to ancestral ghosts. The success of crops, welfare of pigs and children, or victory in battle could all be hindered by a restless ancestor. Sacred rituals to placate the ancestors were held at special sites with only ritual experts, certain tribal elders and novices present.

The 'kepele' ritual, whose influence spread across the western Enga and Ipili region, was the largest of all fertility rituals. Lasting for five to six days, the 'kepele' involved ceremonial dances, the sacrifices of pigs, feasting and ritual training of young men. 'Kepele' culminated in the simulated 'mating' of woven 'yupini' figures with sacred stones, which represented the ancestors. The 'yupini' and sacred stones were then fed pork, and magic 'spells' were recited. Finally, the 'yupini' and sacred stones were laid to rest in a cult house until the next 'kepele' was called.

Natalie Wilson
Curator, Australian & Pacific Art

Exhibition text for 'Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands', AGNSW, 2014


Other Titles

Yupin figure

Figure, Upin with male and female organs


Yupin with male and female organs

Place where the work was made

Laiagam Enga Province Papua New Guinea

Cultural origin

Yandapu-Enga people


(mid 20th century)
collected 1963

Materials used

coil-woven vine and rattan, dried plant fibre


51.0 x 34.0 x 23.5 cm figure


Gift of Stan Moriarty 1978


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 6 publications


Willibald Blank, Anthropos, 'Ein Fruchtbarkeitsidol aus dem westlichen Hochland von Neuguinea', pg. 907-08, Sankt Augustin, 1963. General reference to 'yupin' plaited fibre figures. Reproduction of 'yupin' figure in the collection of the Anthropos Institute.

Heinz Christian Dosedla, Abhandlungen und Berichte des Staatlichen Museums fur Volkerkunde Dresden [Band 41], 'Kultfiguren aus Flechtwerk im zentralen Hochland von PNG', pg. 86-98, Berlin, 1984. General reference to 'timbu wara' and 'yupin' plaited fibre figures.

Philip Gibbs, Anthropos, 'The Kepele Ritual of the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea', pg. 434-448, Sankt Augustin, 1978. General reference to 'yupin' plaited fibre figures and description of the Kepele Ritual.

Roger Neich, Records (vol. 1, no. 2), 'Basketwork fertility figures from the Western Enga and nearby groups, Western and Southern Highlands, New Guinea', pg. 33-62, Wellington, 25 Nov 1975, 42, 43 (illus.). figure no. 4

Tony Tuckson, Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 36 (illus.), 53. H122

Natalie Wilson (Editor), Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, Sydney, 2014, 71 (colour illus.), 160. 18