Marriage and the politics yams

The Trobrianders of Papaua New Guinea have set up quite an efficient society circulating around the harvest of the delicious yam. The Trobrianders highly anticipate a good thriving yam season because it can determine and establish many factors in their life. The labor is divided but all in all the yams bring unity to the Trobriander society. The factors that can determine future of any Trobriander are their sustainability and well being, wealth, marriages, sexuality and especially politics.

All these determinants compose the life of the Trobriander and can affect them emotionally and physically throughout their lives. Yam Gardens in the Trobriander society are highly prized possessions. The labor a man undergoes to grow the yams in the yam garden is an arduous task. However, the work a man puts out to grow a yam garden is simply not for himself but to benefit the household of his married sister and received as a gift. The reason for a man to give yams to a woman ultimately involves women’s wealth. The yams basically belong to the women.

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The new moon brings joy to harvesting but also brings a realization of the hard work they must endure. The Trobrianders practice an ancient technique called swidden cultivation and is much less labor intensive than hoe cultivation. Even though the labor intensive process of growing yams is primarily men’s work, couples soon come together when the gardens are ready to plant. The couples work intensively to keep up with their garden and their labor is done in unison, except for the most intense labor which is the building of the fence by the man to keep the wild pigs away from the yam garden.

In the Trobrianders society, “The general garden, except for special occasions, supplies most of the daily food for the family throughout the year. ” Throughout the year the yams power begins to evolve leading me to the next factor which is wealth. The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea create a harvest celebration at the beginning of harvest. The wealth of the yam is looked upon as a sign of respect. The wealth of the yam is a very powerful thing in the Trobriander society. Early on in the day the yams are carried to the owner’s hamlet and all of the young people come dressed up in their festive outfits.

The Yam house suddenly becomes filled with great feasting and everyone waits for the most anticipated of all- the pork! Sometimes the season for the yam is not a good one the man’s yam house does not get as filled as he would like it to. In the eyes of the Trobriander man, “A yam house, then, is like a bank account; when full, a man is wealthy and powerful”. The yams will rot not last long but enough to give the household satisfaction for what they grew. Just like money it is a limited currency. The yams are not to be taken for granted and therefore not to be eaten as a daily food source.

Yams are the currency for the Trobrianders “but marriage is the foundation on which most of the yam displays and exchanges take place at harvest time. ” Yams are a big part in the marriage of Trobriander people. “When a couple east yams together to announce their marriage, the cooked yams they receive from the wife’s parents mark only the beginning of the way their future married life will be organized around yam production. ” Most marriages occur during the season of the yam. First, there is a yam presentation, one done by the wife’s father and her mother’s brother then one by the grooms father and his mothers brother.

They make a presentation consisting of valuables such as, stone axe-blade (beku) or a kula shells both of which are very high in value. The valuables are either attained through inheritance or exchanges outside the Trobriands society. With the most recent exchange of money instead of valuables does not replace or even do justice behind the history and wealth behind these certain valuables. In marriage exchanges, “each person from the bride’s side who contributed to the first yam exchange receives a valuable when they are collected by the groom’s relative. The valuables are what honor the marriage and can determine it as well. In the Trobriander society, the first year of marriage is like a trial period and can make or break the couple. They say that “the way the couple eats yams together during this time signals again the significance of yams as a statement about their marriage. ” In conclusion the life of the Trobriander is for the most part based of off the production of yams. The yam can determine the future of any Trobriander like life for their sustainability and well being, wealth, and marriage.

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Marriage and the politics yams. (2017, Jan 29). Retrieved from