An image of kaua tikit (orator's stool)

Iatmul people

(Papua New Guinea  – )

kaua tikit (orator's stool)

Other titles:
Debating stool, Ceremonial debating stool, Ceremonial stool, kawa teket, kawa rigit, teket
Not on display
Further information

The latmul language group occupies the main part of the middle Sepik River. It is mainly through its prolific and varied art that the whole of the art of the Sepik River has become better known.

Generally, each main ceremonial house has a 'teket', which is used in much the same way as a lectern during formal discussions. The man speaking stands beside or behind the stool and emphasizes his points by beating the stool with three bunches of leaves which are provided. The head is set up on the shoulders, the face is rounder, the transition between brow and eyes is not clear-cut, the eyes are circular, the mouth is large, showing teeth (also found on some Yuat River figures). The nose, with its wide nostrils is emphasized by the vertical line rather than the carving. The roundness of the face at top and bottom is carried though the whole conception of the figure including such details as the pectoral muscles. The holes at the side of the head are for ties of string fibre to hold a small band of cane to which decorations were attached. There are the remains of red paint on the legs. The face itself is painted white, with red at the cheeks and mouth with the darker linear decoration being the wood itself. In Iatmul society it was the privilege of homicides only to paint their faces white and black. The 'teket' "are sacred and must not be casually touched and are not used as seats" (Gregory Bateson, 'Social structure of the Iatmul people of the Sepik River', Oceania, 2: 289, 260, plate 1, 1932).

revised entry from AJ Tuckson, 'Some Sepik River art from the collection', AGNSW Quarterly, vol 13, no 3, 1972, pg. 671.

Place of origin
Middle Sepik River, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
Cultural origin
Iatmul people
early 20th century-mid 20th century
Sculpture, Ceremonial object
carved wood, conus shell, cane, red and white natural earth pigments
52.0 cm height stool; 136.5 cm height overall :
0 - Whole; 52 cm; stool height
Purchased 1962
Accession number
© Iatmul people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics