Betel nut mortar, Coastal Sepik river, Papua New-guinea
This beautiful hardwooden utilitarian object was made and used in early 20th century, by people living around the lower Sepik region of Northern Papua New Guinea. This mortar is called a Dap-dap and can be considered a helping tool in ingesting the stimulant effects of the betel nut, the fruit of the Areca Palm. The betel nut was, and is till today, used in the region to reach an hallucinatic state, when chewed in combination with lime, made from burnt shells or corals. The mortar which has a cup-like form, was used together with a little pestle, in order to crush the nuts, together with the lime, after which the mesh was put in the mouth. It was probably used by the elderly or individuals who allready lost their teeth. This specific object still holds some residue of the mixture.
In this case the cup is hold by three back to back male ancestral figures, who are positioned on a wooden base. The three figures have mask-like faces as often seen in other objects from this region . It is often believed that the depicted carriers, are spirits, ancestors or supernaturals beings, and that they had some magical properties, which gave the mortar not only had a utilitarean purpose, but also a religious one.
Private French collection
- Indigenous object name
- Region/ country
- Sepik (coastal area), Papua New Guinea
- 1st half 20th century
- Sold with stand
- 9×5×5 cm