The 'Hidden' Power of Male Ritual: The North Vanuatu Evidence


  • Michael Allen


THE   CENTRAL theme of this paper is expressed with enviable clarity and simplicity   in the above short poem. Written by Herman Talingapua, a young Papua New   Guinea man on his return home after acquiring Western knowledge abroad, it   describes, in a manner strikingly in accord with those anthropological   interpretations of male initiations which stress the male gender ambiguity   theme, his perception of himself as, lacking access to the secret power   within manhood, 'condemned to sleep with women, unfit to carry shield and   spear'. But what is perhaps even more striking is the depiction of male   power, and hence the key to the attainment of a satisfactory manhood, as   located in the female-manufactured and pregnant baskets. In other words,   Talingapua, the 'modern' young man, has produced yet another and most   poignant version of the type of 'matriarchal' myth with which I am concerned   in this chapter.