27 body parts

A child's display of Oksapmin's 27-body part counting system. 

Representing twenty-one kina with the Oksapmin body part counting system.

This Oksapmin man (2001) was shown twenty-one kina worth of Papua New Guinea currency and is representing that amount in the Oksapmin language. He indicates his shoulder (10) or kat(-hai) (pointing to shoulder) doubles that value with reference fu and then indicates that he places one kina coin temsi tana (flat with hole) at his neck (11), for a total of twenty-one kina.

trade store owner solving 16-7=?

This film was taken in 1980. The man interviewed is a trade store owner who has developed new ways of using the body part counting system to solve arithmetic problems. He is presented with the problem that he has one kina and sixty toea and spends seventy toea. In the video, he represents one kina sixty toea as 16, distributing the value as shoulder (10) and wrist (6). Then from the side for which he has registered shoulder (10), he indicates that he spends the equivalent of seven or forearm (7).

Elementary school children displaying the Oksapmin counting system (2001)

One morning in 2001, children arrived at the elementary school classroom, but their teachers were away. As a group, they were eager to display for me the Oksapmin 27-body part counting system.

Display of the Oksapmin body part counting system

A traditional man displaying body part positions in the Oksapmin 27-body part counting system


Man in 1978 displaying the ending of a count showing fu gon a! (with fist), a completion of all of the body parts.

Counting Beyond the 27th Body Part

Display of Oksapmin body-counting system from thumb (1) around upper periphery of body to pinky (27) and then looping to wrist (28).

using fu in the representation of stones

This man is finishing his count of 29 stones using body part names. When he finishes, he states the cardinal value, tit fu gona it was besa tit si. One loose translation of the expression is, the completion of all 27 body parts of the count (tit fu gona) and then counting back around to the forearm.