Masks are used to cover long yams in a ceremony showing the men's gardening prowess. It is of utmost importance in the culture. the Abelam believe only men can grow long yams. Their success is dependent not only on hard work, but complete abstinence from contact with women during the six month growing period, and spiritual assistance from ancestors. A fine yam is named for the ancestral spirit and that spirit is brought into being by the mask and decoration.
Masks of the World by Douglas Congdon-Martin and Jim Pieper, Schiffer Pub. 1999