moesgaard museum, de etnografiske samlinger, ethnography, collections, museum, aarhus, denmark, papua new guinea, yupini, jens bjerre, enga, death

Yupini – Papua New Guinea


Almost resembling a funky dancer expressing himself in the light of the disco ball, perplexed and surprised by his own moves, we were amused to learn that this little fella is actually connected to the afterlife of the Enga people of Papua New Guinea in Oceania. His name is Yupini.

Collected by Jens Bjerre in 1961, Yupini is said to be the physical manifestation of the central ancestral spirit of a given village, a figure feared and respected for his control over the local environment. Natural phenomena such as earthquakes, thunder, crop failure, landslides and epidemics of disease are regarded as signs of Yupini’s anger, hunger or restlessness, and to restore his happiness, the figure is not shy in his luxurious demands. For him to keep natural disasters at bay, Yupini likes to indulge in the likes of human pleasures, such as fat and meat from the best slaughtered pigs – and also, he enjoys being provided with a so-called “female stone” with a hole in the middle during night-time. No wonder he is dancing!

yupini faktaboks

Jens Bjerre experienced Yupini as surrounded by a great sense of secrecy, and recalls being regarded as the first white man to ever see the mystical figure, otherwise taboo for women and children of the village as well. Only the medicine men knew about the construction of Yupini, his whereabouts as well as the specifics of the rituals surrounding the worship of him, and as such only the most powerful were to interact directly with Yupini.

How Jens Bjerre managed to convince Yupini to accompany him on a trip back to the ethnographic collections of Moesgaard Museum in Denmark, we are not exactly sure. But we know it involved providing the local medicine man with enough pigs for him to be able to afford a new wife.

You can visit Yupini in the exhibition “The Lives of the Dead” at Moesgaard Museum.

// Ciara Coogan


Bjerre, Jens (2006/2007): Forsvundne Verdner

Photo: © 2014 Jacob Due, Photo/Media Department of Moesgaard Museum.

Byline portrait: © 2015 Line Beck,

Posted by

putting thought to things

22 thoughts on “Yupini – Papua New Guinea”

  1. Natalie Wilson says:

    I’m writing from Sydney, Australia. I’d like to know whether you have a place/village noted in Bjerre’s field notes as to where he actually acquired your so-called ‘yupini’. I am doubtful that this is a ‘yupini’ from the highlands, but more likely a woven figure from the Iatmul people of the Sepik River, which is where I believe Bjerre spent most of his time in 1961. I would be very interested in any information you could give me.
    Kind regards,
    Natalie Wilson
    Curator, Australian & Pacific Art
    Art Gallery of New South Wales


  2. Natalie Wilson says:

    Further to my note, I strongly believe that it is possible you have another figure in your collection which is the actual yupini collected by Bjerre, of which there is a line drawing in the following article:
    Neich, Roger. ‘Basketwork fertility figures form the Western Enga and nearby groups, Western and Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea’, National Museum of New Zealand Records, vol 1 no 2, 1975, pp 33-62.
    The accession number cited for that figure is I.6163
    You will see the yupini figures in the article (there are three in the AGNSW collection) are quite different from the figure in your post.
    I have shown the image in your post to several of my colleagues in Australia, and they also believe it might possibly be from Kaminambit village on the Sepik River, or nearby, not from the Highlands.
    Kind regards
    Natalie Wilson


    • Hi Natalie! Thanks so much for your inputs 🙂 we’ve forwarded your comments to some of the experts at the museum, who will get back to you as soon as possible. It’s quite interesting and we’re really happy that the blog can be used for this kind of knowledge sharing.
      All the best
      Emma Louise Pedersen


  3. Hmm it looks like your site ate my first comment
    (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up
    what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing.

    Do you have any tips and hints for newbie blog writers?

    I’d really appreciate it.


  4. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is
    an extremelpy well written article. I will make ssure to
    bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks
    for the post. I’ll certainly return.


  5. Excellent way of explaining, and pleasant post tto get data regarding myy presentation subject, which i amm
    going to present in university.


  6. Please let me know if you’re looking for a writer for your blog.
    You have some really good articles and I believe I would
    be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load
    off, I’d really like to write some content for your
    blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please
    blast me an e-mail if interested. Many thanks!


  7. These are really great ideas in about blogging. You have touched somne noce factors here.

    Any way keep up wrinting.


  8. Thanks on your marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you’re a great author.
    I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and will come back very soon. I want to encourage you continue your great job, have a nice weekend!


  9. Neat blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog shine.
    Please let me know where you got your design. Appreciate


  10. Awesome blog you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any forums that
    cover the same topics discussed here? I’d really like to be a part of community
    where I can get opinions from other experienced individuals that share the same interest.

    If you have any suggestions, please let me know.


    • Hi! I’m glad you like the blog! I don’t really know of any forums like the ones you are looking for.

      But if you find them, let us know! We’d love to be part of it too.

      All the best from ethnographica


Leave a Reply to top change 2005 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.