Yam Houses

Kiriwina Island, Papua New Guinea

In this island culture, the humble yam is like gold. They’re not only the staple crop on Kiriwina, but also symbols of wealth that have great cultural and spiritual importance and play a role in all major life events. Yam houses, which are used to store the yams, act like banks; they’re so important that they’re often painted with distinctive patterns in red, black and white and decorated with strings of shells. Head to Omarakana to see a spectacular example of a yam house. This is where the island’s paramount chief, who reigns over the island’s oral and magic traditions, lives. When paying your respects, bring a small gift or cash, and be sure to keep your head lower than his.

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