Head for Yam ceremony (Yena)
- 19th–early 20th century
- Papua New Guinea, Washkuk Hills, Tongwindjamb village, Middle Sepik River region
- Kwoma people
- Ceramic, paint
- H. 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm)
- Credit Line:
- The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1969
- Accession Number:
The Kwoma, Nukuma, and Yasyin-Mayo peoples of the Washkuk Hills region north of the upper Sepik River share a distinctive artistic tradition centered on an annual
sequence of ceremonies devoted to the cultivation of yams. A supernaturally powerful food, yams cannot be eaten until the spirits responsible for their growth have been appropriately honored. Following the yam harvest, the spirits are celebrated in a sequence of three ceremonies, yena, mindja, and noukwi. Each ceremony requires the creation of a specific type of figure.
In the first two rituals, yena and mindja, the figures are lavishly adorned and displayed atop a large basket-like structure containing part of the yam crop. The yena rites generally involve the display of wood heads with neck-like stalks. However, in some cases, ceramic yena heads such as the present work are also used. The mindja ceremony involves plank-like figures with yena-like faces and
bodies adorned with diamond-shaped motifs representing banana leaves and undulating forms depicting the coils of snakes. The final ceremony, noukwi, restricted to senior initiated men, involves the display of female figures.