Orator's stool (teket)



A carved wooden 'chair' with humanoid figures supporting the seat, and one large figure forming the back with its head extending into the shape of a bird's head at the top. The figures' eyes are formed by inlaid shells (probably cowrie), and they are painted with red pigment and white spots. 'Teket' are some of the most important and prestigious treasures of the Iatmul people. This looks like a chair, but is not used as a seat; during debates in men's communal houses, the speaker hits it with a bundle of leaves to emphasise his points. The main figure may represent an ancestor of the clan, whose spirit takes its place in the seat, or the primeval creator. The bird at the top is probably a cockatoo which is associated with mating rituals and is a common motif in the Sepik. The two smaller figures are female and may represent two wives.