Fieldphotos - Abelam

The Abelam

The Abelam numbering about 30,000 people live on the plains and foothills of the Prince Alexander Mountains north of the middle Sepik River.
They are divided into two distinct cultural subgroups based on the environmental differences between the plains and the hill areas.
The northern Abelam live in the foothills while the southern Abelam, or Wosera, live on the plains.

The Abelam survive in their environment by cultivating gardens.
They have a complex ceremonial life organized around the cultivation of long yams, and spirits, among the most important of which are
nggwal - ancestor-like beings whose power determines human life.
The cultivation of long yams by the men is the central theme of their political life, moral values, rules of behaviour, ritual and myth.

Traditionally Abelam houses are small windowless thatched A-frames set on the ground.
In contrast to these simple structures the Abelam have spectacular spirit houses or 'haus tambaran'. These gabled triangular framed structures
soaring to heights of 80 feet. with brilliantly painted facades are justly world famous as „Cathedrals of StoneAge“.