Wood, bamboo, rattan, plant fibers, black pigment and shells
Presumed period: first half of 20th century
Iatmul language group
Middle course of the Sepik River
Papua New Guinea
Jacques Lebrat Collection, Paris
Called mbandi iavu (lit. insider’s gourd), this elegantly carved gourd was used to preserve lime, associated with the chewing of betel leaf and areca nut.
It is decorated with a Janus-shaped human face, its body stylized with openwork motifs, and a long nose whose tip extends into a rooster’s head with outstretched claws. This bird was admired in the Sepik River region for its brilliant plumage and sexual vigor.
Towards the end of the – inevitable – period of reclusion in the young boy’s initiation, the wau (maternal uncle) would offer him this lime gourd, which he carried on his shoulder, cap down
This type of gourd was a prestigious utensil. They were handed down from generation to generation and represented the initiate’s clan ancestors.
For two similar models collected by Paul Wirz, see Friede, 2005, vol. 1, p. 223, fig. 190.
The second gourd is in the collections of the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam (Inv. no. 2670-138).
Photo caption: Young initiate carrying his lime case. 1953. Photo by Des Bartlett
Museum of Anthropology, University of Queensland. Inv. 32166
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