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Female Initiation Figure

For the Abelam, the initiation of males into adulthood is a process in which the boys are “reborn.” It is not surprising, then, that female images and symbols, particularly those connected with birth, are important parts of the rites. The wide separation between this figure’s legs, for example, suggests that it may have served as the figure under which the boys crawl or stoop as they move into the sacred space of the men’s ceremonial house, which had previously been forbidden to them.

Abelam peoples, Papua New Guinea
Female Initiation Figure
20th century
Wood, pigment
H. 53 ½ in. (135.9 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 63.68