Abelam Female Tetepeku Figure-Ex. Seymour Lazar-George Kennedy-New Guinea Art-Oceanic Art
This Abelam female figure is important in so many ways. First, it was used as part of male initiation where initiates crawled between her legs to enter the “Lu” room. She was called “tetepeku” which translates to “she who blocks the road” or sometimes she’s called “kijimbu” which means (I love this) “she who, by having intercourse with you, destroys your work” (The House Tambaran of Bongiora by Fred Gerrits, 2012, p. 391). The figure is important in my opinion also because it was field collected by Dr. George Kennedy in the early 1960s—you can read this man’s interesting biography in the PROVENANCE section. The figure was sold at Christie’s Los Angeles auction of 14 February 1981, the year after Kennedy’s death. It was acquired by one of my favorite people—Seymour Lazar was an entertainment lawyer representing the likes of Lenny Bruce, Miles Davis and the Beatles. He dated Maya Angelou and for a time in the 1960s was considered the largest stock trader in America. He was a passionate collector of Oceanic art and one of my first clients while I was still in graduate school. I had always enjoyed seeing this female figure in his Palm Springs house and am very happy to have been able to acquire it a week ago. The figure has great colors, totemic bird heads sprouting behind her head and a male and female child on her legs. She is carved from a heavy, dense hardwood, dates to the 1940s, stands 52 ½” (133.4 cm) in height.