B & W negative

Registration number
Item name
B & W negative 
Indigenous name
Mr Des Bartlett  
Associated cultural group
Pacific > Papua New Guinea > East Sepik Province > Wosera Gaui District > Aibom
Mr Des Bartlett 
Acquisition date
January 01, 1954 
Acquisition method
Purchased from Mr Des Bartlett 
H: W: 35 mm L: 35 mm D: Circum:


Black and white photograph of a man standing outside.

Research notes

"This old man from Aibon Village on the Middle Sepik would be considered the local witch doctor in Africa. Besides being able to control the weather he is called in when a persona becomes sick. His chief aid when working on a sick patient is a piece of sacred bark. He bites onto this and blows onto the legs and arms of the sick person. He then uses a certain amount of massage before pressing the affected area. If a person suffers from snake bite the elders can effect a cure by doing a special sing sing. The patient is kept moving on his feet and is prevented from falling asleep, and the old men keep up an incessant chant. Certain old men are claimed to hold the power of life and death. They are capable of entering a crocodile and making it attack a person from the village, but the crocodile would not do this on its own accord. These old men are also blamed if a wild pig gores a boy from the village when he is out hunting, or if a coconut falls from a palm and hits a piccaninny playing near its base. For this reason the old men are particularly feared, and as a result are looked after by the rest of the village. The old man in this photograph has a good reputation, but others are blamed for doing evil" [Bartlett 1953].

See 31940, 31987, 34438 and 31950 [catalogue card note].

Part of a series of copies of 330 photos in the range 31891 to 34881 taken by Bartlett on a 1953 trip to the Sepik River with Armand and Michaela Dennis who were making the film 'Among the Headhunters' which was released by Arthur J Rank. The photos include an initiation ceremony held at Yanchan Village on the main river. The photos come from an album of the trip made by Bartlett, a copy of which given to the museum in 1983 along with other photos which were copied at that time.

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