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Title

Bai (panel from ceremonial house)

mid 20th century


Artist

Abelam people

Papua New Guinea


About

The towering ceremonial houses of the Abelam people of the Sepik River region 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.

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


Details


Other Titles

Bark painting

Spathe painting


Cultural origin

Abelam people


Date

mid 20th century


Media category

Painting


Materials used

sago palm petiole, natural pigments


Dimensions

108.0 x 38.1 cm


Credit

Gift of Roy Harpur 1963


Accession number

IA5.1963


Artist information

Abelam people

Works in the collection

7


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Referenced in 2 publications

Bibliography


Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 46. cat.no. 100

1963 Acquisitions, Sydney, 1963, 75. cat.no. 169