Yam Ritual and Harvest

In agricultural communities, much of the art and ritual is dedicated to ensuring a bountiful harvest. For the Abelam, the cultivation of long yams is exclusively the domain of men and features prominently in the religious and social life of the community.  It is treated as a sacred endeavor involving strict codes of conduct during the growth season.  At harvest time, men publicly present yams reaching lengths of up to 9 feet to their permanent exchange partner from another village. To give a larger yam than you receive is to gain prestige, the reverse is the equivalent of losing face.

Photo © Carolyn Leigh, 1996 at Art-Pacific.com