Dance Ornament - Axe
Papua New Guinea
East New Britain
See full details
Members of secret societies such as the dukduk or tubuan, which still operate to this day, maintain and pass on their knowledge of songs, the practice of magic and the secrets of the physical manifestations of these spirits. As well, members are entitled to a sort of policing function in regards to traditional laws.
The object highlighted, is a dance axe known as pem, used during a mourning ceremony in which the tubuan (a masked figure representing a spiritual mother) searches out the deceased’s spirit and with the pem, chops down the deceased’s house and trees in order to discover the deceased's spirit.
Before the ceremony, the pem is decorated with red paint and the tubuan does a number of dance performances within a sacred area. When dawn approaches, there is complete silence in the village. Sacred musical instruments are blown by tubuan members, pre-empting the appearance of the tubuan, who bursts from the trees and appears at the deceased’s home carrying the pem.
An elder introduces the tubuan by calling her name. The tubuan carrying the pem runs aggressively, stepping on the doorstep of the deceased’s house or on trees. A tubuan member will follow the tubuan, observing what to chop. The tubuan member will then take the pem from the tubuan and chop everything that the tubuan has put her foot on.
Following the completion of the chopping of the house and trees, the tubuan returns with the pem to the sacred area, where more singing and performing is done until daybreak.