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


Bai (panel from ceremonial house)

mid 20th century


Abelam people

Papua New Guinea

  • Details

    Other Titles
    Bark painting
    Spathe painting
    Place where the work was made
    Maprik District East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
    Cultural origin
    Abelam people
    mid 20th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    sago palm petiole, natural pigments
    108.0 x 38.1 cm
    Gift of Roy Harpur 1963
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Abelam people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Abelam people

    Works in the collection


  • About

    The towering ceremonial houses of the Abelam people - who live in the area from the grass plains of the Sepik River to the foothills of the Prince Alexander Mountains - are known as 'korombo'. They are the sites of important festivals, including the initiation of men into the spirit cult, and rituals revolving around the cultivation of very long 'ceremonial' yams. Known as 'wapi', these yams are only grown by men.

    Painted facades – or 'bai' – of 'korombo' are created from panels made of flattened sago palm leaf stalks. Inside the 'korombo', sacred objects, including 'urungwall' carved figures, 'baba' woven masks, and individual paintings such as this example, also known as 'bai', are kept for use in initiation-cult and yam-cult ceremonies. 'Urungwall' may be used as resonators, to imitate the voice of the 'ngwallndu', the most powerful spirits of the Abelam.

    [revised entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 22]

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 2 publications

Other works by Abelam people

See all 7 works