Exhibiting Historical Art: Out of the Vault: Stories of People and Things

Sepik Spirituality: Spirit Houses

The center of Sepik spirituality is the Spirit House, a meeting place where the men gather to talk, eat, relax, and discuss problems confronting the village. Sepik culture is decidedly patriarchal, with every institute being maintained by women for the sake of the men.  Important ceremonies and celebrations of the community take place in the area surrounding the Spirit House. Ceremonial objects, such as hand drums, are stored inside the house — perhaps this headrest resided in a Spirit House at one point in its history. 

    Though the activities are the daily politics, gossip, and “brawling of a mens’ club,” the given purpose of the house is the initiation of young men through an elaborate ritual. Spectacular, dramatic, and violent activities have their center in the ceremonial house — just as men have their center in this society.

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