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.
Curator, Australian & Pacific Art
Exhibition text for 'Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands', AGNSW, 2014
Figure, Upin with male and female organs
Yupin with male and female organs
(mid 20th century)
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
© Yandapu-Enga people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics
Where the work was made
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 Oct 1974 -
Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 May 2014–10 Aug 2014