Audio Tours

Picture

Narration

NARRATOR:
This area includes objects associated with the men's houses found throughout the region of Melanesia, which includes New Guinea. Traditionally women and men lived separately and gender divisions were strict. Tribal art expert Michael Hamson.

MICHAEL HAMSON:
The ceremonial house is the place where ancestral spirits reside. The 'big place,' they call it, would be the domain only for initiated men, because it's only initiated men who have the knowledge and skill and inherent strength to handle the powers that the ancestral spirits have.

NARRATOR:
Major decisions for the village are debated here in the Spirit House and the drums, masks, statues and imagery you see are the tools they use to ask the spirit world for guidance. The wooden figure on the left, carved with a seat behind it, is called an orator's stool.

MICHAEL HAMSON:
An orator's stool, such as this, is actually the kind of physical, tangible representative of the ancestral spirit that would normally preside over that particular family or clan. The societies there are fairly democratic in the sense that there's no class hierarchy system. So people become successful on their abilities in battle, in hunting, in the garden, and in oratory.

NARRATOR:
Speakers take turns making their case, often striking the seat of the stool or touching it with leaves to emphasize a point.

MICHAEL HAMSON:
The spirit is given a pride of place within the discussion. And the discussion is often addressed to that stool, because ultimately that spirit has the the winning vote in whatever discussion that they're having.

Step21-Melanesian Mens House


Hits 2044
« Slit-gong Drums, Vanuatu Highlights of The Bowers Collection (English) Songs Coffin (Erong), Toraja Culture, Sulawesi, Indonesia »