We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Yupini (fertility figure)

(mid 20th century)
collected 1963


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    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
    Media categories
    Mixed media , Ceremonial object
    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
    © Yandapu-Enga people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    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.

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

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    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. cat.no. H122

    • Natalie Wilson (Editor), Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, Sydney, 2014, 71 (colour illus.), 160. cat.no. 18