A Tau Tau is a carved wooden or bamboo effigy of the deceased that is usually commissioned upon a person’s death. Tau translates as ‘man‘ and so Tau Tau translates as ‘men‘ or ‘statue‘. Traditionally they were only carved to reveal the gender of their subject but they have become more and more extravagant and a likeness to the deceased is now expected, as is being dressed in an outfit formerly owned by the deceased.
At a cost of over $1,500, they are an extravagance usually reserved for those with higher standing with society. Once created, the Tau Tau remains with the body and is transferred to a lookout above the cave grave entrance at the time of burial. The Tau Tau are thought to protect the deceased and watch over the living.