moesgaard museum, de etnografiske samlinger, ethnography, collections, museum, aarhus, denmark, female, ancestor, spirit, papua new guinea, tetepeku, haus tambaran

Tetepeku – Papua New Guinea

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Tetepeku – one of the rare female ancestor figures from Papua New Guinea, of great importance to the Abelam people of Wosera.

As a central part of male initiation rites, the novice is to crawl between the legs of Tetepeku, placed inside the ceremonial house, haus tambaran. Here, male and female ancestor figures rest together, maintaining life’s harmonious balance between men and women, the dead and the living. Passing through the door-opening, and on through the legs of Tetepeku, you are reborn as a grown man with access to the world and wisdom of men.

Paradoxically, live women are denied entrance to haus tambaran, despite their crucial role in the in the reproduction of society. For them, the ceremonial house is a place for their spirit to find rest after they die, continuing to reproduce society – only here, bringing children into the world is extended into making men of young village boys.


// Ciara Coogan



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

Byline portrait: © 2015 Line Beck,

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