Abelam Ceremonial Yam Fan
Abelam Ceremonial Yam Fan
Abelam people, early to mid. 20th century, Maprik district, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea.
Absolutely gorgeous ceremonial yam fan. Yam fans are used behind basketry masks (baba) or small balsa heads to decorate the giant yams grown by the Abelam men.Yam farming was a often the main crop, making up a large part of the Abelam society. Ceremonial yams are lovingly cared for. During the yam growing season, strong emotions were kept to a minimum as they were thought to impede the growth of the yams. Fighting and sexual activity are taboo, it was thought that the yams had spirit and could sense these strong emotions. At harvest time, villagers would gather for the yam festival ceremony, at which time the farmers who presented the largest and best yams, often claimed a higher status and social ranking. The finest and largest yams are essentially transformed into human images, decorated like the men in full ceremonial regalia. The heads of these yams are adorned with a hand-painted and finely woven vegetal masks. These masks are made especially for the yams and are never worn by people.
Fantastic, aged yam fan is made from woven fibers and grasses, colored with natural pigments, and has been mounted on a custom made iron stand. Traces of yellow, black and brownish red pigments over a thin layer of mud or a clay. Excellent condition. Size approx. 26,0cm x 27,2cm x 1,3cm (excluded modern stand).
Provenance: Dutch private collection
References and further reading:
Abelam Masks: New Perspectives, Richard Scaglion, 2020, Tribal Art No. 96, pp. 42-49.
The Stars Are Eyes: A New Perspective on the Art of the Abelam, Marc Assayag, Montreal: Marc Assayag, 2019.
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