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Nu ts… !! The Coconut in Oceania


In Oceanic mythology, it is the goddess Hina, known to all and whom we see on moonlit nights beating tapa, who is at the origin of the Coconut Palm Tree, Cocos nucifera. With variations depending on local lore and imagery, she refuses to marry a prince who appears with the repulsive features of an eel. Maui, the god responsible for the creation of all islands by fishing them up with a magic hook, helps her overcome this eel whose head, once buried in the ground, gives birth to the first coconut tree. It is said that the three holes at the apex of the nut, and through which it has been nourished with the sap of the tree, represent the eyes and the mouth of the eel. With such a myth, it is hardly surprising that this tree and its edible nuts are at the heart of the imagination and the daily and ceremonial life of the Pacific Islanders. Thought to be of Pacific origin, the Coconut Palm tree known as the tree of "one hundred uses" or the "tree of life" produces a nut that is the dietary basic of most Oceanic cultures. The fresh water it contains is sterile and healthy. The white and gelatinous albumen of the young nut is given to newborns and pregnant women. Once grated it gives coconut milk, a refined cooking medium and used daily, as is its oil. To evoke the coconut in Oceania in but a few lines : when all the elements of the tree have been used - the contents of the nut for food and copra, the husk and spathe as filters for cooking; the wood for construction; the roots and plaited leaves for baskets, fish traps and roofing; the oil for perfume - there remains only the shell of the nuts serving as containers, to drink amongst others - kava, a ceremonial drink made from the peppery root of the Piper methysticum, now a daily event in masculine society. The incredibly resistant coconut shell is covered with motifs that recall cranial sutures. Archaeological evidence shows that they have been used in trepanation operations, the results of which is not recorded. They are reminiscent of kapala, the cranial half-caps used as alms bowls or ritual vessels by the Hindu yogi. The coconut shell in the Pacific is the base for remarkable engraved motifs, painting and other additions serving daily, ritual or symbolic purposes as shown by the objects presented here in all their diversity and their wide geographical range in Oceania. Marie-Claire Bataille


The coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) is a member of the Arecaceae family (palm family) and the only living species of the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the whole coconut palm tree or the seed, or the fruit, which, botanically, is a drupe, not a nut. The names "Coco" – meaning head or skull in reference to the three indentations on the coconut shell that resemble the eyes and mouth with the triangular nose in between – and "coconut", have two distinct possible origins both dating back to the time of Portuguese and Spanish exploration of the world in the early years of the 15th and 16th centuries. According to João de Barros (1496-1570), the names "coconut" and "coco" were given to the fruit by the sailors of the Vasco da Gama expedition circa 1498, coming into contact along the coasts of the Indian Ocean with coconut palms. The second version is that the names stem from encounters by Portuguese and Spanish explorers with Pacific islanders in 1521 during Magellan’s crossing of the Pacific. In both cases the coconut shell reminded them of a mythical ghost or witch in Portuguese folklore called coco (female côca). The species name nucifera is Latin for "nut-bearing". The coconut palm tree is unique for its versatility offering essential elements for food, construction and cosmetics. It is commonly referred to as the "tree of one hundred uses" or more poetically the "tree of life". The coconut palm provides a regular part of the diet for many people in the tropics and subtropics. Coconuts are distinct from other fruits as their endosperm (what we call the nut) contains a large quantity of water (sometimes called "milk") and which, when immature, is harvested for the potable and sterile coconut water and the jellied inner flesh. When mature, the nuts can be used as seed nuts or processed. Charcoal is made from the hard shell, and coir (a braided rope better known in Oceania as sinnet) is woven from the fibrous husk, when fresh, the grated and pressed coconut flesh provides milk and when dried (known as copra) it is pressed for oil commonly used in cooking, as well as in soaps and cosmetics. The husks and leaves are used as material to make a variety of products for building, furnishing and decorating. The earliest written reference to the coconut appears to be that in the Sallier papyrus which r e c o r d s a specimen of this plant in the botanical collection of Tothmes I around 1650 BC. A subsequent description of the coconut palm such as that offered by Cosmos of Alexandria in his Topographia Christiana written around 545, makes a reference to the "argell" tree and its drupe (nut). The next mention is by Marco Polo in Sumatra in 1280 who called it nux indica, this taken from the Arab jawz hindī, which translates to "Indian nut". Ludovico di Varthema published a detailed description of the coconut in his Itinerario in 1510 using Thenga, its Malayalam name and it reappears as such in the later Hortus Indicus Malabaricus published in Amsterdam between 1678 and 1693. In March 1521, a description of the coconut was given by Antonio Pigafetta writing in Italian and using the words "cocho"/"cochi", as recorded in his journal after the first European crossing of the Pacific Ocean during the Magellan circumnavigation. Even the fictional "Sinbad the Sailor" set in the 7th and 8th centuries AD offers an early mention of the coconut as he is said to have bought and sold coconut during his fifth voyage. The origin of the plant is still the subject of debate. It has generally been accepted that the coconut originated in the Indo-Pacific region and float-distributed itself around the world by riding ocean currents. The similarities of the local names in the Malaysia–Indonesia region is cited as evidence that the plant originated in the area. The Polynesian and Melanesian term niuand and the Tagalog and Chamorro term niyog are said to be based on the Malay word nyiur or nyior. O. F. Cook, one of the earliest modern researchers to look into the origin of the coconut hypothesized that the plant originated in the Americas, based on his belief that American coconut populations predated European contact and because he considered pan-tropical distribution by ocean currents improbable. Some research has been done on the survival rate of floating mature coconuts and they appear to be able to support some 100 to 160 days of salt water immersion and thus able to travel perhaps up to several thousand kilometers

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depending on wind and currents and still sprout upon arrival. The ability to self-propagate through floatation is proven by the reestablishment of coconut palms on the Indonesian islands surrounding the volcano Krakatoa which were laid barren and buried in volcanic ash 30 to 50 meters deep in the catastrophic 1883 eruption. Only thirteen years later coconut palm trees were growing and bearing fruit without human intervention ! Another hypothesis is the "Long-distance dispersal of the coconut palm by migration within the coral atoll ecosystem" offered by Hugh C. Harries and Charles R. Clement in Annals of Botany 113: 565 – 570, 2014. Here the authors propose that coconuts originated and dispersed by populating emerging islands of the coral atoll ecosystem and in order to do so the fruit developed a thick husk protecting the nut while floating, extending its floatability and delaying germination. The coconut palm as such became an intermittent, itinerant, pioneer endemic plant on suitable beaches. Most recently Bee Gunn, Luc Baudouin and Kenneth M. Olsen working on the origins of coconut cultivation, and not the origin of the plant, have done DNA analysis on the Pacific and Indian Ocean coconuts which are found to be quite distinct from each other genetically speaking. They found that in the Pacific, coconuts likely were first cultivated in insular Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and possibly on the continent as well. In the Indian Ocean, the likely center of cultivation was the southern periphery of India, including Sri Lanka, the Maldives and the Laccadives. One exception to the general Pacific/Indian Ocean rule of cultivation is Madagascar and the Comoros Islands. The coconuts there are a genetic mixture of the Indian Ocean type and the Pacific type. The three academics believe that the Pacific coconuts were introduced to the Indian Ocean a couple of thousand years ago by ancient Austronesians establishing trade routes connecting Southeast Asia to Madagascar and coastal east Africa. Some remained and settled there so that the present-day inhabitants of the Madagascar highlands are descendants of these ancient Austronesian travelers. It appears that the Indian Ocean coconut was transported to the New World by Europeans much later. The Portuguese carried coconuts from the Indian Ocean to the West Coast of Africa. The plantations established there were a source of seedlings introduced into the Caribbean and also to coastal Brazil. On the Pacific side of the tropical New World, the coconuts are Pacific Ocean coconuts. Some appear to have been transported there in pre-Columbian times by ancient Austronesians moving east rather than west. Later during the colonial period, the Spanish brought coconuts to the Pacific coast of Mexico from the Philippines, which was for a time governed on behalf of the King of Spain from Mexico. Thus, one finds Pacific type coconuts on the West coast of Central America and Indian type coconuts on the East coast. The oldest known fossils of the modern coconut dating from the Eocene period – around 55 million to 37 million years ago – were found in Australia and India, however older palm fossils such as the nipa fruit (Nypa fruticans) have been found in the Americas dating back from 72 million to 66 million years ago. A partial, yet well preserved and detailed fossil palm frond of Cocos robustifolia from the lower Oligocene (33 million to 23 million years ago) has been described from a collection made from 1857 to 1889 in Santa Giustina and Sassello in Central Liguria, Italy of all places. A species with strawberry-sized nuts (Cocos zeylanica) lived in New Zealand in the Miocene (some 23 million to 5 million years ago). In these ancient periods of global warming the tropical climate was more widespread then today and the ancestor of the coconut was spread widely around the planet. So far there seems to be no confirmed origin location for the coconut palm tree. Perhaps its birth is lost in time – the plant so often transported by sea and man that it is no longer possibly to unravel the crossed threads of its voyages from its first appearance on earth to the present.

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A Selection of Carved and Ornamented Food Ladles From the Admiralty Islands

The man on the facing page is one of a large group of Admiralty Island warriors photographed here above in the early years of the 20th century. He is the only one holding a ladle, albeit a very plain example, in addition to his spears or arrows. This group of warriors appears to have been photographed along with their weapons brought for sale to the visiting Europeans.

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A superb and archaic ceremonial food ladle for an important man. The ornate handle is carved with the stylized head of an ancestor wearing a "war-charm" at the nape of the neck. The handle is carved as two dentate engraved uprights. Ornate ladles were used by men of importance and quite possibly the decoration of the handle is linked to the status of the man in the hierarchy of initiated men in the tribe or in a Secret Society. Most ladles have geometric handles – figurative examples are rare. Admiralty Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell, wood, bush fiber, Putty-Nut (Parinarium nut paste), and lime infill. 30,7 x 13,5 cm, 19th century. Ex coll. : Paul Guillaume (1891 - 1934), inv. N° 47 (& 518 in stock photograph), Paris; Sold at auction : Ancienne collection Paul Guillaume : Art Nègre : Tuesday 9 november 1965, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, Etienne Ader & Maurice Rheims (auctioneers), Jean Roudillon (expert), Lot N° 2. Then Morris Pinto Collection, Geneva & New York. Subsequently sold lot 55, Sotheby’s, Paris, 11 June 2008. The ladle, one of the very few Oceanic pieces owned by Guillaume, figures as N° 518 in the photographic inventory of the Paul Guillaume stock, a copy of which is in the library of the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. Mounted on a Kichizo Inagaki signed wood base, with a period, yet post Inagaki screw (the wood support for the ladle as can be seen in the Guillaume stock photograph c. 1929/30 was obviously broken at some subsequent point and the ladle was screwed directly through the handle to the base). The base carries both the inv. N° 47 in white paint as well as the original engraved bronze plaque inscribed in error "Hebrides" (Vanuatu of today). Ref. : Neverman, Dr. Hans. ADMIRALITATS-INSELN, ERGEBNISSE DER SUDSEE-EXPEDITION 1908-1910. de Gruyter & Co. 1934.

Hamburg, Friederichsen,

Ohnemus, Sylvia: AN ETHNOLOGY OF THE ADMIRALTY ISLANDS, The Alfred Bühler Collection, Museum der Kulturen, Basel, Crawford House Publishing, Bathurst, 1998.

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A very fine ceremonial food ladle decorated with two large fish carved free-standing from a cross-bar. Admiralty Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, P.N.G., Melanesia. Coconut shell, wood (alstonia), pigments, and puttynut (Parinarium). 33 x 12,2 cm. 19th century. Ex coll. : Steinmann, a German medical doctor who served in German New-Guinea between 1880 & 1890. Ref.: Neverman, Dr. Hans. ADMIRALITATS-INSELN, ERGEBNISSE DER SUDSEE-EXPEDITION 1908-1910. Hamburg, Friederichsen, de Gruyter & Co. 1934. Ohnemus, Sylvia. AN ETHNOLOGY OF THE ADMIRALTY ISLANDS, The Alfred Bühler Collection, Museum der Kulturen, Basel, Crawford House Publishing, Bathurst, 1998. 9


A fine ceremonial food ladle for an important man. The ornate handle is carved in the stylized form of a canoe prow such as those represented on the extremities of the great dance logs or handles of the large feast bowls. It represents a human figure which can be seen from either direction composed of a single body with a head at each end. The figure is encased in a curved and beveled shape reminiscent of a cape or hammock. Admiralty Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell (the coconut bowl was broken in the period of collection and a family member undertook to rebuild it with a "Fimo" type resin), wood, pigments, bush fiber, Putty-Nut (Parinarium nut paste), and lime infill. 28 x 12 cm. 19th century. Ex coll.: Otto Ernst, Hamburg. By descent, Dorothee Alsen (daughter of Unteroffizier Ernst), Hamburg. Collected in the field by Unteroffizier Otto Ernst, on board the S.M.S. CONDOR during the ships stop in the Admiralty Islands in January of 1912. "My father, Otto Ernst (1885 - 1967) was with the Kaiserliche Marine until the end of WW I. In 1910 until 1912 they cruised around the Pacific visiting Japan, many of the islands like Samoa, New Guinea, Admiralitätsinseln, China etc. Their boat was the SMS "CONDOR" and he was at that time a sergeant (Unteroffizier). He wrote a diary that we have as we told you. When he had his time off they went ashore always 2 people only were allowed to go. When the people from the Islands came along the "CONDOR" in order to trade things my father talked in pidgin-English." Dorothee Alsen (August 2009) Ref. : Neverman, Dr. Hans. ADMIRALITATS-INSELN, ERGEBNISSE DER SUDSEE-EXPEDITION 19 08-19 10. Hamburg, Friederichsen, de Gruyter & Co. 1934. Ohnemus, Sylvia. AN ETHNOLOGY OF THE ADMIRALTY ISLANDS, The Alfred Bühler Collection, Museum der Kulturen, Basel, Crawford House Publishing, Bathurst, 1998. 11






Rudolf von Bennigsen (1859-1912), Imperial Governor of German New Guinea 1899-1902 On April 1, 1899, Rudolf von Bennigsen was appointed as the first Imperial Governor of German New Guinea and the island regions of German Micronesia. That same year he moved the seat of colonial administration from Friedrich-Wilhelm-Hafen (Madang) to Herbertshöhe (Kokopo) on the island of New Britain. Von Bennigsen was an old-style Prussian army officer, whose scarred face betrayed the number of duels fought in his youth. As a man whose sense of honor was absolute and unyielding, he enforced colonial rule through punitive expeditions using the simple formula of expansion by pacification. Rudolf von Bennigsen resigned his service in German New Guinea and handed over the governorship to the then imperial magistrate Albert Hahl in 1901.

A fine ceremonial food ladle for an important man. The ornate handle is carved in the stylized representation of a fish. Admiralty Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell, wood, pigments, bush fiber, Putty-Nut (Parinarium nut paste), and lime infill. 25 x 13 cm. 19th century. Ex coll. : Rudolf von Bennigsen (1860-1912), First Gouverneur of German New Guinea from 1899 to 1902. Ex collection of an unidentified German Museum, inv. N° 13594, inscribed in white paint on bottom of bowl : 13594, Admir : Ins. Benningson and 13594 on rear of handle. Ref. : Neverman, Dr. Hans. ADMIRALITATS-INSELN, ERGEBNISSE DER SUDSEE-EXPEDITION 19 08-19 10. Hamburg, Friederichsen, de Gruyter & Co. 1934. Ohnemus, Sylvia. AN ETHNOLOGY OF THE ADMIRALTY ISLANDS, The Alfred Bühler Collection, Museum der Kulturen, Basel, Crawford House Publishing, Bathurst, 1998. 14


A fine ceremonial food ladle for an important man. The ornate handle is carved perhaps as a spear (?) the leaf-shaped blade pierced through. The putty nut fixation of the handle to the bowl is unusually decorated with imprinted X form lines possibly representing binding. Admiralty Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell, wood, pigments, bush fiber, Putty-Nut (Parinarium nut paste), and lime infill. 29,5 x 15,4 cm, 19th/20th century. Ref. : Neverman, Dr. Hans. ADMIRALITATS-INSELN, ERGEBNISSE DER SUDSEE-EXPEDITION 19 08-19 10. Hamburg, Friederichsen, de Gruyter & Co. 1934. Ohnemus, Sylvia. AN ETHNOLOGY OF THE ADMIRALTY ISLANDS, The Alfred Bühler Collection, Museum der Kulturen, Basel, Crawford House Publishing, Bathurst, 1998. 15






A lawyer by training, Adolf Hoffmeister, 1902-1973, was an artist, writer, critic, diplomat and professor. A founding member of the Devětsil avant-garde movement in 1920, Hoffmeister took an early interest in "Savage" arts, especially works of Melanesian art. Although his archives feature a correspondence with André Breton on the topic of Oceanic Art, his sources of acquisition were mainly shared between Czech artists and collectors – Josef Hloucha and Emil Filla in particular – and French art dealer Charles Ratton.

A superb ceremonial food ladle for an important man. The long ornate handle is carved as a large crocodile with beautifully carved and painted zig-zag scales. Admiralty Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell, wood, pigments, bush fiber, Putty-Nut (Parinarium nut paste), and lime infill. 40 x 11,5 cm, 19th century. Ex coll. : Adolf Hoffmeister, Prague (1902-1973). Sold 19 November 1999, African and Oceanic Art, Sotheby’s, New York lot 146, the collection of Adolf Hoffmeister. Acquired by Galerie Flak, Paris who cut down the broken edge of the coconut rim. Sold 11 June 2008, Important Art d’Afrique et d’Océanie, Sotheby’s, Paris, lot 46. Ref. : Neverman, Dr. Hans. ADMIRALITATS-INSELN, ERGEBNISSE DER SUDSEE-EXPEDITION 19 08-19 10. Hamburg, Friederichsen, de Gruyter & Co. 1934. Ohnemus, Sylvia. AN ETHNOLOGY OF THE ADMIRALTY ISLANDS, The Alfred Bühler Collection, Museum der Kulturen, Basel, Crawford House Publishing, Bathurst, 1998. 18


A very fine ceremonial food ladle for an important man. The long ornate handle is carved as a square section bar terminating with a dog head. The handle is decorated with incised and painted geometric and avian forms and the coconut bowl is painted red. Admiralty Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell, wood, pigments, bush fiber, Putty-Nut (Parinarium nut paste), and lime infill. 31,5 x 12,5 cm, 19th century. Ex coll. : Collected by Radio Officer Karl-Heinz Lehr on the merchant ship Friderun (misspelled Frederun) in 1928. The ladle is visible hanging on the wall of the collection room in the home of Karl-Heinz Lehr. Ref. : Neverman, Dr. Hans. ADMIRALITATS-INSELN, ERGEBNISSE DER SUDSEE-EXPEDITION 19 08-19 10. de Gruyter & Co. 1934.

Hamburg, Friederichsen,

Ohnemus, Sylvia. AN ETHNOLOGY OF THE ADMIRALTY ISLANDS, The Alfred Bühler Collection, Museum der Kulturen, Basel, Crawford House Publishing, Bathurst, 1998. 19






Manfred Nahm, a German ship’s doctor, (third from right in the above photo) travelled to and in the South Seas in 1898 and 1899. He brought back an impressive report of his experiences and a collection of extremely interesting ethnological objects. Nahm served as a staff surgeon in the Imperial Navy and out his total of 22 years of service, he spent nearly nine years at sea during two of which, he sailed as ship’s doctor on the surveying ship S.M.S. Möwe in the German Pacific area (1898-1899). His official report on his voyage, now in the Mürwik naval school in Flensburg, Germany, shows a critical attitude to cannibalism, which he had observed in Oceania, but more importantly he was very much against the behavior of the colonial powers in the Pacific, holding them responsible for the abhorrent living conditions of the natives. Manfred Nahm was considered eccentric and not everyone countenanced his conduct on board. He was finally relieved of his duties at the age of 47. He subsequently settled in Munich where he died of malaria in 1933. His collection was displayed and partially photographed in the Alterstums-Verein in the city of Heidenheim in 1901. Subsequently Dr. Nahm, through his brother August gave most of it to the Linden Museum in Stuttgart. A small remnant of the collection remained in the possession of his family and was sold at auction in 2010. Nahm is mentioned in the diary entry for Sunday April 9, 1899 of Johanna Fellmann, the wife of missionary Heinrich Fellmann stationed in New Britain. She mentions that the Möwe is lying off Matupit and that while the Captain and most of the crew are new – Dr Nahm is still on board. She describes traveling with her husband and Nahm to see a nearby farm.

A superb ceremonial food ladle for an important man. The ornate handle is carved as a stylized canoe mast (?), terminating with twin stylized birds at the top, just below the V shaped mast fork. The coconut is beautifully decorated with incised geometric and sun forms. Admiralty Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell, wood, pigments, bush fiber, Putty-Nut (Parinarium nut paste), and lime infill. 30 x 12,8 cm, 19th century. Collected in the field by Ship’s Doctor Manfred  Nahm, MD (1867-1933)  of the German Imperial Navy on board the surveying vessel S.M.S. MÖWE between 1898 and 1899 on a voyage in colonial German New Guinea. By descent through the family. A label on the rear is inscribed in red ink « - - - - - Löffel, Admiralität Iselen » Ref. : Neverman, Dr. Hans. ADMIRALITATS-INSELN, ERGEBNISSE DER SUDSEE-EXPEDITION 19 08-19 10. Hamburg, Friederichsen, de Gruyter & Co. 1934. Ohnemus, Sylvia. AN ETHNOLOGY OF THE ADMIRALTY ISLANDS, The Alfred Bühler Collection, Museum der Kulturen, Basel, Crawford House Publishing, Bathurst, 1998. 22


A fine lime container or water bottle for an important man. The ornate motifs are formed by eight concentric, four pointed stars creating an architectural framework. The underside of the nut is divided into four sections three of which contain a stylized crocodile carved in low relief whilst the fourth has a double crocodile. Admiralty Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell. 13,5 x 13,5 cm. 19th century. Ref. : Neverman, Dr. Hans. ADMIRALITATS-INSELN, ERGEBNISSE DER SUDSEE-EXPEDITION 1908-1910. Hamburg, Friederichsen, de Gruyter & Co. 1934. Ohnemus, Sylvia. AN ETHNOLOGY OF THE ADMIRALTY ISLANDS, The Alfred Bühler Collection, Museum der Kulturen, Basel, Crawford House Publishing, Bathurst, 1998.

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A simple coconut water bottle pierced at the rim for a suspension cord that is still present. The outside of the nut shell has been carved down to a remarkable thinness and finely polished. Tahiti (?), Society Islands, Polynesia. 16 cm Ø x 12,5 cm. 18th/19th century. The nut bears an old paper label inscribed " Marguerite Clavier 4e-A1". Provenance : Thomas Arbousset & Marguerite Clavier, near Poitiers, France. Collected by Thomas Jean Arbousset between 1863 and 1865. Arbousset (1810-1877) was a French Protestant missionary of the Société des missions évangéliques de Paris (SMEP), sent in 1863 to Tahiti to restore confidence in the Protestant Church and Congregation. He became chaplain of and possibly the confidant to Queen Pomaré. He returned to France in 1865 leaving behind his protégé, the missionary Emile Atger, to take his place. Arbousset continued to officiate in France until his death in 1877. By descent through the extended family tree. Acquired from a member of the family of Marguerite Clavier. This coconut by its remarkable provenance and through its proximity with Queen Pomaré is a veritable relic of the Tahitian royal family and of the main missionary’s who evangelized Polynesia… 25






KAVA

Kava has been cultivated and celebrated for at least 3000 years in the Pacific and its usage from the wild surely extends well beyond. Kava or Piper methysticum (from the Latin "pepper" and Latinized Greek "intoxicating") is a plant that is found in the wild as well as being cultivated in many parts of the Pacific. It is used to induce a psychotropic state. There are many local names for the plant : kava (or kavakava) is used in the Tongan and Marquesan languages. In Hawaii it is known as ‘awa, in Samoa it is ʻava and in Fiji, where it has the greatest importance it is called yaqona. Kava is consumed throughout Polynesia, as well as in Vanuatu, and some areas of Melanesia and Micronesia for its sedative, anesthetic, and euphoriant properties. Basically, it is the root of the kava plant that is chewed, pounded or grated to produce a powder which, mixed with water or coconut water creates a beverage used as a common, ritual, ceremonial and entheogenic drink. Entheogenic substances are those that are used primarily for spiritual development and shamanistic practices as opposed to those narcotic or psychotropic substances used in a "recreational" manner. While the beverage is consumed in mundane circumstances in many parts of the Pacific it has a most important ceremonial and ritual function. The consumption of kava is ritualized in many areas of Polynesia, but by far, it is the Fijians who have taken the entheogenic function of kava to its highest level. In Fiji, yaqona is used by the priests to induce trance through which they can communicate with the ancestral spirits. The active ingredients of kava are called kavalactones. The six major kavalactones in kava are methysticin, dihydromethysticin, kavain, dihydrokavain, yangonin and desmethoxyyangonin. These are psychoactive substances that induce a variety of states to the human conciseness, notably those geared towards transcendence and outer body experiences. Kava also is used to induce relaxation and euphoria and it provides analgesia. It offers forms of neuroprotection, and it appears to attenuate menopausal symptoms. It is diuretic, antiepileptic, spasmolytic, as well as bacteriocidal and antimycotic. It has recently been reevaluated as one of the most important pharmaceutical plants ever discovered. Many companies are actively pursuing the medical possibilities that kava seems to offer. The kava cultures of the Pacific have created an amazing amount of paraphernalia for the making, the ritualizing and the consumption of the drink. There are superbly made, and/or decorated bowls for preparing and serving the beverage; strainers for removing the chewed or pounded mash from the mixture before consumption; bowls or cups for individual usage; magnificently carved, geometric, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic deep or flat dishes for the priests, and of course the shell of the ubiquitous coconut is used by all to serve and drink kava. In Fiji, where kava is of the prime social and ritual importance, the yaqona ceremony is performed in the presence of the guest of honor, the Chief or a visitor. The person is seated cross-legged in front of the large, four-legged yaqona bowl or tanoa. A thick coconut fiber rope decorated with white cowrie shells known as Tui-ni-Buli attached to the lug of the bowl is pointed at the guest. The master of the yaqona ceremony directs the proceedings. In traditional times yaqona was prepared by young girls who chewed the pieces of the root into a soft pulpy mass. Once mixed with water the beverage is strained through a bundle of vegetable fiber, usually the shredded bark of the Vau tree (Hibiscus tiliaceus) leaving a smooth, opaque grey or beige drink. When the master of the yaqona ceremony feels that the mixture of water and mash is right, the cup-bearer, with much ceremony and respect, presents the guest of honor with the first bilo (coconut shell cup). When the guest has drained it in a single draught, there is a cry of "maca" (pronounced maatha) meaning "it is drained" accompanied by the clapping of hands. The master of ceremonies is next to drink followed by all guests in order of rank. On a final note and to further show the extreme importance of yaqona in Fijian society, the act of refusing to drink yaqona from the offered cup or bilo is considered an ultimate insult and leads of course to appropriate consequences…

Making kava. John La Farge, Samoa, 1891

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A fine large, yet plain bilo, or libation cup for yaqona (kava in Fijian). The outer shell of the nut has been carefully scraped down and smoothed so that the three natural crests stand out and create a superbly understated decorative touch to the plain surface of the cup. Chiefs and important men would have their own special cup of this sort. Some, for sacred and ceremonial occasions were decorated with a large and important woven coconut fiber handle. The yaqona bearer would pour the liquid, taken from the great tanoa bowl, from his cup into the bilo of the participant. When used for religious purposes the cup was generally placed on a thick woven coconut fiber ring on the floor of the great bure, or temple. Without touching the cup with his hands the priest sucked the intoxicating yaqona through a straw while kneeling on the ground. This unusual method of drinking kava called burau is indigenous while hand-held cups like the present example seem to have come into vogue during the second half of the eighteenth century due to increasing Tongan influence. The inside of the cup shows traces of dried yaqona deposits. Western Highlands of Viti Levu Island, Fiji, Polynesia. Coconut shell. 12 x 17.6 Ø cm. 18/19th century. Ref.: Clunie, Fergus. YALO i VITI. Fiji Museum, Suva. 1986. In the early photograph in the background here one can see that the woman standing on the right holds a plain bilo in her hands. This a staged photograph by the Dufty Brothers studio, circa late 1870’s, and the women are already dressed in "missionary" style clothing. 30





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A shallow, simple bilo ni yaqona, or libation cup for kava (yaqona). Men and women would have their own special cup of this sort. Lomaji Village, Matuku Island, Fiji, Polynesia. Coconut shell. 15,6 cm x 5,7 cm. 19th century. Originally collected in the field by the Comte & Comtesse de Ganay, Charles & Régine van den Broek and Jean Ratisbonne on the Koriganne Expedition of 1934/1936. The field inventory number is 134. The Musée de l’Homme deposit number is D.39.3.45. A native name "Poasa Mate" is incised in the outershell. It was acquired from from a "native" by Monique de Ganay for the price of 1 schilling in April 1935. The inventory card reads in french "Cette coupe (bilo) en coque de noix de coco polie (de couleur bleu foncé avec des tâches gris clair) est gravée sur le dessous du nom de l’indigène Poasa Mate. Elle sert à puiser le jus des racines de kava dans le grand bol kumete."


 

A very fine bilo ni yaqona, or libation cup for kava (yaqona). Chiefs and important men would have their own special cup of this sort. Certain cups have large, woven coconut fiber handles attached to one side. This is either for sacred and ceremonial reasons or perhaps it is due to the importance of the owner and his mana. In Polynesia, and specifically in Fiji, the high ranking person is so sacred that nothing must touch his body or "pollute" his mana. The handle on the bilo is possibly a way of limiting the physical proximity of the great chief with a taboo item. Chiefly bilo are often highly polished and decorated. Sometime the woven coconut fiber handle (liga ni bilo) was embellished with added shell or imported glass beads. In this example there are five seeds or grains glued in a line to the rear of the bilo under the handle. The seeds are coated with a thick resin. Fiji, Polynesia. Coconut shell, seeds, and woven coconut husk fiber. 15 x 11,5 x 6,5. 18/19th century. Ex coll. : Rainer Werner Bock, Hawaii, sold lot 701, Aguttes, Neuilly s/ Seine, 2017. Reported by Bock to be ex Pitt Rivers collection but no proof is provided. 33


A very fine bilo ni yaqona, or libation cup for kava (yaqona). Chiefs and important men would have their own special cup of this sort. Certain cups have large, woven coconut fiber handles attached to one side. This is either for sacred and ceremonial reasons or perhaps it is due to the importance of the owner and his mana. In Polynesia, and specifically in Fiji, the high-ranking person is so sacred that nothing must touch his body or "pollute" his mana. The handle on the bilo are possibly a way of limiting the physical proximity of the great chief with a taboo item. Chiefly bilo are often highly polished and decorated. Sometimes the woven coconut fiber handle (liga ni bilo) was embellished with added shell or imported glass beads. Rakiraki region, Viti Levu, Fiji, Polynesia. Coconut shell and woven coconut husk fiber. 14,5 x 13,5 x 7 cm. 18/19th century. Provenance : collected by Redlund Bode in Fiji in 1898. The cup was on long term loan to the Bishop Museum from Mr. and Mrs. R. R. Bode as of June 29, 1933 and was returned on March 31, 1934 where it was listed as a "Coconut shell yaqona cup with fiber ornamental crest from the Rakiraki region of Viti Levu, Fiji." The inner lip of the cup is numbered in white paint with the Bernice P. Bishop Museum loan inv. N° L2752. The loan number includes a number of ethnological collections along with natural science specimens belonging to R.R. Bode. By descent. Acquired from John Bode, January 2009 by Michael Hamson inv. N° 0901-35. Redlund Bode who appears as R. R. Bode in publications was a composer of liturgical music and songs, as well as the organist who directed the first choir at the Buddhist Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii in the early 1920’s. Bode is recorded as being on the faculty of St. Andrew’s Priory, a Protestant girls' school situated at Emma Square in Honolulu and he is noted as a member of the Hawaiian Historical Society at Honolulu as early as 1917. It appears that he was part of a pioneering group of Christians who became interested in Buddhism. Ref.: Clunie, Fergus: YALO i VITI. Fiji Museum, Suva. 1986. "…Yaqona soon became a nightly institution, a matted room was set apart for the purpose, where a number of the Native Constabulary prepared the drink and chanted their songs the while. The Governor frequently entertained some of the chiefs at yaqona, and the room being also used as a smoke room, these meetings were mostly very successful…"  Anatole von Hügel’s Journal, 3-8 August 1875.

36


 

A fine, plain coconut water bottle, or Kitu ni somi with the original coconut fiber carrying straps. The rough fibers are stripped from the drying coconut husk and carefully cleaned before being woven together to form a braided rope known as sinnet. This coconut fiber rope can be made to be as fine as sewing thread or as thick as marine hemp hawsers for ocean going canoes. Sinnet is used throughout the Pacific but its is most famous in the Western Polynesian triangle of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. Here the houses are made with the cross beams and struts roped together with the cord as tight as if held together by nails or screws. Fiji, Polynesia. Minor conservative repairs to the sinnet. 19th century. 17,5 x 17, 5 cm (without the cord). 37






 

An unusual powder-horn made with a finely shaped coconut and a fitted pewter top incorporating the pouring spout. There is no localization offered for this piece yet there is a strong presumption that it might be of Fijian or Tongan manufacture for use by the local Constabulary. 14,2 x 9 cm. 19th/20th century. 39


A fine Tavaniwaiwai, or coconut container for coconut oil. The outer decoration of deeply engraved triangles with cobblestone motif is classical of the typology. The container is pierced twice at the lip edge for the attachment of a lid (now missing). Tonga, Polynesia. 13,5 cm Ă˜ x 12,5 cm. 18th/19th century 40


Doctor Philippe Francois (1859 – 1908) here photographed in Vanuatu between 1888 and 1895


 

A pair of false breasts made from the husk of two small round coconuts. The artist chose the nuts with great care making sure that they are symmetrical in form and size. The hard coconut nut shell was broken out from the inside leaving the husk to be pared down to the right shape. The rear openings of the breasts are reinforced with an inner rim of cane carefully stitched to the edge of the husk. A short length of string is left hanging – perhaps for attachment. The breasts are over-modeled with a thin coat of decayed vegetable material mixed with the sticky sap of the bread-fruit tree and then painted, one red and green and the other red and blue. The use of these false breasts is detailed in Speiser who states that they are worn by young men dancing in imitation of or in place of women. See two others in the collections of the Rauten Strauch Joest Museum Koln. Malekula Island, Vanuatu, Melanesia. Coconut husk, pigment, bush string and cane. 9,8 x 10,5 cm (green) and 10 x 8,5 cm (blue). 19th century. Collected in the field between 1888 and 1895 by Dr. Philippe Francois (1859-1908), a French medical doctor and naturalist. Sold at auction : Tajan, Hotel Drouot, Paris, 13/12/2002, lot 204. Above photographed on the wall of the family home prior to the 2002 auction. Ref. : Speiser Felix, Ethology of Vanuatu, an early twentieth century study, translated by D.Q. Stephenson, Basel / Bathurst NSW, Crawford House Publishing 1996 (reedition of the original text publishing in 1910). 42


43


A group of three coconut objects inlayed with nautilus shell decor. The drinking cup on the left is carved in the form of a stylized animal; the central example as a ceremonial food bowl and the water bottle on the right offers a stylized humanoid face with inlayed eyes over the open mouth. Solomon Islands, Melanesia. Coconut, parinarium nut paste and nautilus shell. left to right : 12 x 8,8 x 6 cm; 12 x 8,4 x 4,5 cm; 12 x 11,5 cm. 19th/20th century.


45


 

A group of three coconut spoons. The left example is carved with a human head finial reminiscent of the prognathic features on Solomon canoe-prow figure-heads; the upper right is carved as a ceremonial food bowl and the lower right is designed to imitate a sea bird. Solomon Islands (?), Melanesia. Left 10,7 cm: upper right 13,1 cm; lower right 11,3 cm. 19th/20th century.





47


 

An unusual spoon with a crenelated edge. The old, lateral crack has been mended with a double stitch of rattan threaded with glass trade beads. Solomon Islands (?), Melanesia. Coconut shell and European glass beads. 13,2 cm. 19th/20th century. 48





New Guinea


 

A very unusual water or food vessel decorated with five, low-relief, concentric circle motifs placed equidistant around the perimeter. The concentric circle and/or spiral motifs are reminiscent and surely remnants of the early Dong Son culture from Vietnam. Boiken Plains, North Coast, PNG, Melanesia. 17 x 14 cm. 20th century. 50


Stylized representation of a vulva worn by travestied men during the Naven ceremonies. The two sides of the vulva are composed of stylized bird heads with the triangular clitoris in between. Iatmul language group, Middle Sepik, PNG. Coconut and lime. 9 cm. 19th/20th century. Ex coll. : The French artist Fernand Devèze. then by descent to his nephew Mr. Bergognon. It is probable that Devèze acquired this amulet through the Parisian dealer Marie-Ange Ciolskowska, as she was one of his main suppliers or through his friend and mentor André Derain. The Iatmul naven is a ritual event whose name means "going on view". During Naven, men and women mimic and mock each other, variously laughing at the social conventions of gender and crying at their psychic consequences. Men display their envy of female procreative ability; women mock that yearning and reveal themselves to be figures of disgust and repulsion. Both men and women transvestite themselves donning the others apparel including mock genitals and breasts. Female "mothers" symbolically squirt menstrual blood and fling feces onto their "children." Mother's brothers humiliate their nephews by "grooving" their buttocks over the nephews' thighs and legs, evoking anal eroticism even as they performatively cast themselves in the role of birth mother. Spirit figures emerge from cult houses and sway lewdly for beholders. It is as though the whole culture periodically rescinds the mores of routine social life to reveal the confusion and turmoil roiling beneath the surface. It is argued that naven makes visible a partially hidden dialogue in Iatmul culture, a tension between (positive) notions of nurturant motherhood and (negative) notions of grotesque maternal excess. Naven appears to put the unconscious of Iatmul culture "on view", an unconscious consumed by a persistently frustrated masculine yearning for and envy of female reproductive powers. Naven is of course one of the most storied rituals in the annals of anthropological investigation, thanks to Gregory Bateson's epistemologically and ethnographically experimental 1936 account. The focal interest of Iatmul culture is the achievement of masculinity (male gender identity) vis-à-vis female motherhood; it involves Oedipal resentments and desires, incestuous fantasies, "womb envy", sublimated homosexuality, and many other Freudianisms. Indeed, the artefacts of Iatmul culture - myths, architecture, everyday social practice – seem to lend themselves to this sort of analysis, as they are obsessed with gender, the body and sexual reproduction. Bateson, G. : Naven : A Survey of the Problems suggested by a Composite Picture of the Culture of a New Guinea Tribe drawn from Three Points of View (1936). Stanford University Press, 1958. Silverman, Eric Kline : Masculinity, Motherhood, and Mockery: Psychoanalyzing Culture and the latmul Naven Rite in New Guinea. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001.

Fernand Devèze was born on December 22, 1895 in Avignon, his father was a butcher. He lived in his youth at 50 rue des Fourbisseurs. A disciple of Jules Flour at the Beaux-Arts school of Avignon, he was essentially a landscape painter. He exhibited from 1922 to 1938 at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris and the Salon des Tuileries from 1932 to 1936, in relationship with the group of Treize and Indépendents Avignonnais. Essentially known for his painting and his friendship with André Derain, Fernand Devèze was in the years 1920-1950 a discreet but passionate collector of the so-called "primitive" arts until in 1958, he became blind, which put a forced end to his two passions, painting and his collection. The three-dimensional character of the sculptures from Africa and Oceania nevertheless allowed him to enjoy them in a tactile manner until the end of his days. He died at his home at 43 rue Four-de-la-Terre on July 22, 1962.

51


Eye-masks – more commonly called "eye-glasses" by non discerning western observers are true masks. They serve to modify the face of the person – hiding their identity and making them appear to be someone else. These eye-masks are used in the Naven ceremony of the Iatmul along the Middle Sepik. The masks are made from thin sheets of coconut shell often carved on the outside with ornate motifs. The Naven ceremony is a complex ritual moment involving most notably the exchange of gender through transvestism. The men don women clothing and to further the mascarade they wear both false breasts and vulva as well as eye-masks. The women to a lesser extent do the opposite. Iatmul Language group, Middle Sepik River, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell, nassa shells and various fibers. 19th/20th century. Top : 2,6 x 13,7 x 3,6 cm; Bottom : 2,7 x 17 x 3,5 cm 53


Sepik River man wearing an eye-mask.


 

A superb eye-mask with added embellishments of wealth items. Iatmul Language group, Middle Sepik River, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell and various fibers, shells and trade glass beads. 19th/20th century. 2,6 x 14,4 x 5,6 cm 55


 

A very brightly painted eye-mask reminiscent of the "wrap-around" sun glasses invented in 1936 by Bausch & Lomb for issue to U.S. military aviators. This eye-mask is carved from a thinned section of curved coconut shell and the artist managed to impart depth to the motif by using a very subtle cameo effect and the layered paintwork. Iatmul Language group, Middle Sepik River, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell & oil paint over indigenous paint. 17 x 5,3 cm. 19th/20th century. 56





57


A very beautiful spoon for a Big Man carved as a stylized male breast. The nipple is carved as a series of concentric circles and the body of the breast is covered with incised motifs – all reminiscent of male, keloid, body ornamentation related to the Crocodile-Men of the Iatmul along the Sepik River. Keloid scarring, the raised swollen scar tissue used to mark dark skin instead of classical tattoo is caused by successive reopening of wounds and the possible adjunction and/or insertion of various materials. Keloid scarring appears to be driven by genetic factors and there is clinical evidence that patients with darker skin are more likely than patients with lighter skin to develop pathological raised scars - primarily keloids. It appears that keloids are a manifestations of a fibroproliferative skin disorder inflammation – specifically of the reticular dermis. In the background photograph by Lars Krutak one can see the raised keloid ornamentation of a Crocodile-Man. Middle Sepik River, PNG, Melanesia. 19th century. 10 x 9,2 cm. An old paper label inscribed : "New Guinea T.S 29, Ils."


A small segmented nut (unidentified species) deeply and beautifully carved with two main faces that can be viewed both as composing a third face as well as offer two others see from the underside. The rear of the nut is uncarved. Iatmul language group, Middle Sepik River, PNG, Melanesia. Nut (unidentified species) with lime infill. 5,5 x 4 cm. 19th/20th century. Ex collection Nicolaï Michoutouchkine & Aloi Pilioko, Port Vila, Vanuatu, Inv. N° 13.2 ? 73.44 on the reverse. From a small group of carved nuts in the Michoutouchkine collection several of which are published in the catalogue of the traveling exhibition "Ethnographie et Art de L'Océanie". Ref. : Ethnographie et Art de L'Océanie. Fondation N. Michoutouchkine-A. Pilioko. L. Ivanova, Nicolaï Michoutouchkine, Iulian Vladimirovich Bromleï, Ministère de la culture, URSS, 1989. 60


 

A whimsical yet highly representative spoon in the form of a stylized bird. The artist here has sublimated the coconut shell, turning it with minimal intervention into a superb and racy art-work. Undefined region of Papua New Guinea, Melanesia. 14 cm. 20th century. Collected in the field by Peter Hallinan of Surfers Paradise, Australia, in the 1970/80’s. 61


 

This spoon was stolen from Galerie Meyer on 11 September 2018 around 1 pm. No charges will be pressed if it is returned in perfect condition.


 

A fine small and shallow eating or drinking dish. The underside is beautifully engraved with a central star motif surrounded by a band of interlocking spirals. Three small quadrilobe, pierced lugs are carved jutting from the edge – two retaining the original cotton fiber string. Iatmul language group, Middle Sepik, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell with lime highlights. 13,6 x 14 cm. 19th/20th century. Several old labels are attached inside notably one reading "P.C.64". 63


 

A small drink cup in the form of a decorated breast. It is pierced on one side for a suspension loop. Iatmul. language group, Middle Sepik., PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell with lime highlights. 9 x 5,7 cm. 19th/20th century. An old label attached inside reading "P.C.71".

64


 

A small shallow coconut spoon with a beautiful classical decor reminiscent of keloid body ornementation. Sawos (?) Area, Middle Sepik, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell with the remains of sago encrustation and a patina of very long usage and great age. 10,4 cm. 19th/20th century. 65


A drinking cup or small bowl used for consuming sago soup. Carved with four stylized ancestor faces, it is the exact reduction of the beautiful incised and decorated clay sago soup bowls known as kamana. It is pierced through one edge for a suspension loop. Sawos Language group, Middle Sepik, PNG, Melanesia. 14,3 cm. 19th/20th century.

66


The counter-weight of a spinning top. The game is played as shown above by spinning the top to knock over the opponents' sticks. Iatmul language group, Sepik River, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell (the central wood spike is missing). 11,6 cm. 19th century. Collected in the field by a missionary (possibly Prof. Georg Höltker) of the SVD (Societas Verbi Divini – Society of the Divine Word) Mission Museum, Haus der Völker und Kulturen, Sankt Augustin, Germany, Inv. N° 71-7-152 (A) in white paint on rear and stamped in gold lettering on a label of black leather attached with ribbon. De-accessioned by exchange with Ulrich Hoffmann circa 1997/98. Photograph of the game by Bill Grammage, 1980. 67


 

A very fine ocarina carved with a full- figure representation of a nggwal, an ancestral spirit. Abelam, Prince Alexander Mountains, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut. 13,5 cm. 20th century. The ocarina is a small wind instrument with one or more finger holes allowing the modulation of sound. They are used as both mundane and ceremonial musical instruments. 68


 

A very fine eating spoon for a Big Man. The finial is decorated with a very beautifully carved and elegant triangular motif. Abelam, Prince Alexander Mountains, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell. 12 x 8,2 cm. 19th/20th century. 69


 

A very large spoon for a Big man. The outside is carved with the bi-directional face of a spirit figure or nggwal. Abelam, Prince Alexander Mountains, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell. 14,4 x 10,5 cm. 20th century. 70


 

A superb drinking cup decorated with a profusion of spirals forming a large nggwal spirit figure and three smaller ones. Abelam, Prince Alexander Mountains, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell. 11,5 x 11,5 cm. 20th century. Ex coll. : LĂŠo Fleichmann, Sydney, "LF/I114". 71


 

A very fine eating spoon for a Big Man. The finial is decorated with very beautifully carved anthropomorphic motifs representing nggwal carved as stylized floral motifs. The finial has a small reptile-like head protruding from the edge. Abelam, Prince Alexander Mountains, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell. 15,8 x 14,3 cm. 19th/20th century. 72


 

A drinking cup decorated with a profusion of spirals forming six nggwal spirit figures. Abelam, Prince Alexander Mountains, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut shell. 10 x 8,5 cm. 20th century.

73


 

A marvelously designed coconut spoon with a star shaped finial. Undefined area of Papua New Guinea, Melanesia. Coconut shell. 12,9 cm. 19th/20th century.

74


A

B

A) A man’s spoon carved from the shell of a coconut. The finial i s decorated with a small grinning humanoid face like those found on the ancestral Gope boards. Purari River, Papuan Gulf, PNG, Melanesia. 11,5 x 6,5 cm. 19th/20th century. B) A man’s spoon carved from the shell of a coconut. The finial is decorated with a stylized humanoid face with large concentric eyes and lines of zigzag. The edges of the handle are pierced with 5 loops to either side. Papuan Gulf, PNG, Melanesia. Lime highlighting. 13 x 7 cm. 19th/20th century. C) A man’s spoon carved from the shell of a coconut. The large handle is carved with 6 pierced loops to either side. The finial represents a large head with pierced ears, concentric eyes and small nose. Papuan Gulf, PNG, Melanesia. 13,5x 7,5 cm. 19th/20th century. Ex coll. the artists Stella & Raymond Gilles (1923-1997), Mechelen, Belgium ; Tony & L ydia Jorissen-Lieten, Hasselt, Belgium

75

C


 

E

D

D) A man’s spoon carved from the shell of a coconut. The finial is poly-iconic with a central grinning humanoid face with enlarged concentric eyes, which when viewed from the opposite direction represents a bird with a sharp and open beak. Papuan Gulf, PNG, Melanesia. 13,3 x 7,5 cm. 19th/20th century. An old paper label on the inside with the number 08. A small old break to the point of the spoon's bowl. E) A man’s spoon carved from the shell of a coconut. The large handle is carved with 23pierced loops. The finial represents a large head with pierced ears, concentric eyes and what appear to be protruding teeth. Papuan Gulf, PNG, Melanesia. 14 x 8,5 cm. 19th/20th century.

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A small carved coconut known as a marupai. Carved from a species of miniature or dwarf coconut, these poly-iconic charms or amulets offer multiple imagery. The decoration is composed of human faces, figures, pigs, crocodiles, fish and floral as well as geometrical designs. Used to make magic as well as to protect against evil spirits and magical spells, the marupai are most often worn on strings tucked into the man’s armpit or suspended from the neck or even the nose. Often they are used as added adornments to the great gope ancestral boards from which they hang in a bunch from the nose and lateral holes. Papuan Gulf, PNG, Melanesia. Coconut, fiber, wood, shell and various materials. 12,5cm. 19th century.


Marupai 
 Marupai have in the past been described as a New Guinea hunting charm and although not incorrect, it over simplifies their function. Marupai are personal spiritual charms capable of several functions. • They are a protective charm, protecting the owner from being attacked through the spirit world by sorcery. • They act as a messenger to send and deliver messages to other people who have marupai through the ether of the spirit world. • They enable a sorcerer to travel at high speed (fly / magically transport themselves) from one place to another. • They bring game such as pigs, possums and cassowary close to the village making them easier to catch. • They are used to confuse an enemy during battle, by making an individual appear to be many people or make them appear to be where they are not, so that enemy arrows miss the target. • They also have a less savoury use in being able to be sent out to attack and kill an enemy through the spirit world when in the hands of a powerful magician. • Some marupai were hung from the nose of Hohoa Boards to decorate them. • They are sometimes used to control the weather. They can make the weather stormy when the owner is grieving the death of a relative. When sent on a mission against a person (cast as a spell) the spirit of a marupai makes a repetitive high-pitched sound as it flies through the night in search of the enemy. According to oral history the Marupai cult originated in Ihu / Orokolo area. Marupai is the Ihu / Orokolo name for this object but it is also known as Lai Kakar Re in East Kerema and Kaiya Muru or Naharo in Opau. No doubt it has other names in other languages. The way a marupai functions is connected to the concept of Imunu. Imunu is an animist belief where all things of significance contain a being, a spirit, a life force or soul sometimes it is inherent and at other times objects can be instilled with this essence. To a Papuan Gulf inhabitant Imunu is very real and tangible; it is not only a conceptualization – some Imunu is imbued into a marupai when first made because it was made by an important magician or village chief, while following strict taboos, including fasting and abstinence. The Imunu is then increased through feeding the marupai. Traditionally the simplest way to increase Imunu is through the acquisition of someone else’s Imunu via cannibalism. Marupai had their Imunu increased by feeding dried human flesh, teeth or bone into their “mouths” along with magical herbs and bark. Once fed a marupai is hot, charged, filled with Imunu. The owner can then send the spirit of the marupai to do his bidding by ritually evoking its name. To a person in the Gulf of Papua a marupai that is charged with Imunu is alive, a being unto itself. As a being the marupai has personal needs and therefore needs to be fed regularly, bathed using coconut oil, treated with due respect and revered appropriately. In former times when the Men's House or Eravo was still the centre of village life it was only the most powerful of sorcerers who would openly wear marupai. These marupai were the ones used for less offensive practices like hunting and protection. If a powerful sorcerer advertised he had marupai he was more likely to have people pay him to practice his trade. The vast majority of marupai were and are kept secret being concealed by their owners especially the most dangerous ones, being capable of causing death, for fear of payback. Due to their power marupai are predominantly only owned by initiated men. It is not uncommon for a man to own more than one marupai and they are usually inherited from an uncle along with the knowledge of how to control them. Individuals who were not lucky enough to inherit a marupai could purchase one from a renowned sorcerer. If an uncle wished his nephew to inherit a marupai but the nephew was not yet old enough, the marupai would be left in the care of the village’s chief sorcerer until he came of age. Marupai are also commonly put into a string bag in Orokolo and have a large red seed also in a string bag called hepahepa and a piece of bark paiha tied to the bag. Hepahepa is used only when the owner feels in mortal danger at which time he crushes the seed and consumes the pith inside. The seed makes him belligerent and assists in spiritual communication with or through the marupai. The cinnamon smelling paiha bark is the regular food for the marupai and also acts as a tongue-like stopper preventing the contents from spilling. If the owner of a marupai dies before he has had a chance to bequeath his marupai, it is believed that the marupai also dies with him. It is not unusual for a dead sorcerer to be buried with his marupai. Major damage to the marupai is also believed to cause the marupai to die especially if the shell is so damaged the contents can escape. Removal of the material from within a marupai causes it to become dormant until it is fed again. Like many of the world’s ancient works of art, Papuan Gulf art is essentially religious in nature. The faces on marupai, hohoa, bullroarers, drums and masks represent particular religious mythical heroes. Not all these ancestral heroes are human with many being able to take the forms of crocodiles, lizards, birds, pigs and even natural phenomena such as whirlpools, they should nevertheless all be considered deities. These mythical heroes are best identified by the design around the eyes because although other features may differ from object to object a particular mythical hero will always share the identical eye design. Marupai are a New Guinea talisman in so far as they are portable, belong to individuals rather than a group and can be carried on your body. All marupai have 2 eyes and are as near symmetrical as the carver is able to make it. They are all pierced at the base to allow them to have a piece of string attached so they may be carried. They all have a mouth with a hollow behind in which substances can be placed. They are most commonly made of dwarf coconut but can also be made from wood. Many have a “third eye” or navel because Orokolo people believe that astral travel and spiritual communication occurs through the navel which is why it is also almost always depicted on Hohao / Kwoi boards. The majority of marupai have most of the carving on the upper half and this is because the bottom remains extremely hard and difficult to carve even after the dwarf coconut has been buried in the mud to allow it to soften. The designs on a marupai are clan-specific and may not be copied by another clan. The use of marupai is still ongoing in the Gulf but it is rapidly dying out as the old spiritual beliefs and practices cease as they are replaced by Christianity. A famous sorcerer also pointed out a more pragmatic reason for the practice of this culture dying and that is, it just isn’t as easy to obtain the flesh of your enemy as it used to be. Extracts from : http://www.new-guinea-tribal-art.com/wp/index.php/2012/02/05/gulf-of-papua/. By Richard Aldridge © 2012 With permission Mibash of Karama with his kaiavurus (marupai). Photographe © F.E. Williams (between 1922 and 1939) 78


The carved coconut shown here is a marupai-form object with an unusual decor. There seems to be no literature on this object type, however two examples including the present one are known to exist. They were both collected in the field in the mid to late 1990’s by Koos Knoll and Paula van den Berg in the Digul area of Indonesian New Guinea – a bit further west than the Western edge of the Papuan Gulf where Marupai originate. Digul Area, Irian Jaya, Melanesia. 10 x 3 cm. 20th century. 79


 

A very rare carved coconut in the form of a marupai with classical Marind Anim decor. This appears to be a very potent magical object known as a Manon – a sorcerer's charm which is used in harmful blackmagic. The geometric decor is related to that found on the very powerful sacred objects known as Tang and bull-roarers. Marind Anim Area, Irian Jaya, Melanesia. 11,3 cm. 19th/20th century. Collected in the field by the reverend fathers of the Sacred Heart Mission of Borgerhout, Belgium around the turn of the century. Ref. : BaaI, J. van : Dema. Description and Analysis of Marind-anim Culture {South New Guinea). Martinus, Nijhoff Den Haag 1966 80


 

A rare effigy head possibly representing an ancestor or deceased enemy. The features are over-modeled on the cleaned and scraped surface of coconut. The eyes are highlighted with the operculum of the turbo marmoratus sea-snail, and surrounded with the classical painted gawa tao motif. The head is ornamented with human hair on the top. Gogodala Area, Western Papuan Gulf, PNG, Melanesia.12 x 9,5 cm. 19th/ 20th century. The piece shows patina consistant with age and weathering to the face as well as damage to the rear. 19th/20th century. See two other examples collected by Paul Wirz in the collections of the Museum der Kulturen, Basel. 81


 

A rare effigy head, which possibly represents a deceased westerner. The features are over-modeled on the cleaned and scraped surface of coconut. The facial elements are treated in such a way as to render them fully 3D and they appear to be whitened. As well, the beard, made of human hair is shown in the manner of the late 19th century with the mustache and sideburns attached to the rim of hair surrounding the bald pate. The nose is large and non papuan and the teeth are well defined in the open mouth. The eyes are highlighted with the operculum of the turbo marmoratus sea-snail, and surrounded with the classical painted gawa tao motif. Gogodala Area, Western Papuan Gulf, PNG, Melanesia. The piece shows patina consistant with age and weathering. 12 x 10 cm.19th/20th century. 82


 

A very fine coconut spoon for a man of importance carved with a composite geometric decoration and an arrow-shaped finial. The art of the Marind Anim is rare in general and high quality, smaller objects of daily life are even rarer. The artist here once again took the simple form of the functional spoon and achieved a stroke of esthetic genius. Marind Anim Area, South East Indonesian New Guinea, Melanesia. Coconut shell with lime highlights. 14,3 cm. 19th/20th century. 83


 

A very simple yet elegant coconut spoon in the shape of a curled-up animal. Undefined area of Papua New Guinea, Melanesia. Coconut shell. 12,1 cm. 19th/20th century. 84


A very fine coconut lime container carved all over with spiral ornamentation including a humanoid fish figure and a "sun" or "star" motif. The three " eyes" of the nut are carved to form an open-mouthed face with the mouth serving as the orifice for the lime. Lake Sentani – Humboldt Bay area, Indonesian New Guinea, Melanesia. Coconut with lime infill. 12,5 x 9,8 cm. 19th/20th century. Ex Jacques Van Overstraeten, Bruxelles, then collection Jacques Henriet, Nivelles, Belgium. Ex Michel Thieme, Amsterdam. Ref. : Art of Northwest New Guinea: From Geelvink Bay, Humboldt Bay, and Lake Sentani – Greub, Suzanne 1992 "…lime cocoa nuts were always talked of as moinigwi, in which the word moi = monjc = woman, appears. The remark made in the case of the carved spoons made out of cocoa-nut shell, as to the difficulty in working this hard material, is in a much higher degree applicable to the entier nuts; the cut-out portions are also often covered with lime. The ornamental designs offer some variations, but at the lower pole a star figure is often found; besides fish figures (N°. 197), figures of crocodiles, snakes (N°. 200, Pl. IV, fig. 20) and an abundance of spirals (N°. 198 and 199, Pl. IV, fig. 22 and 21)." "… The lime receptacle and the Papuan are almost inseparable. When he leaves his home, it is his faithful companion, either in his bag or under his arm (or attached to the sling, wherever this is used)." A. J. Van Der Sande : Résultats de l’Expédition Scientifique Néerlandaise de la Nouvelle-Guinée en 1903. In Nova Guinea. VOL. III. ETHNOGRAPHY AND ANTHROPOLOGY, Late. J. Brill Publishers and Printers, Leyden - 1907.

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A charming lime container carved with two bands of incised floral and geometric motifs. The underside has a multi-petal flower decoration carved in low relief. The floral and interlocking spirals produce a remarkably "Asian" feeling and the container shows signs of wear and usage with a heavily patinated orifice. Korwar Area, Vohgelkopf Peninsula, Indonesian New Guinea, Melanesia. Coconut shell and lime highlights. 6,5 x 6,5 cm. 19th/20th century. 87


Sources and thanks : As always my thanks to our photographer Michel Gurfinkel; our art-handlers Philippe Delmas & Francis Viera; our basemakers Manuel Do Carmo and Atelier Punchinello; and of course our restorers Brigitte Martin, Serge Dubuc and Edouard Vatinel. A special thanks to my faithful and hard-working assistant Anne Orieux and onwards to Manuel Benguigui who continues to give a friendly hand. For their assistance and support I give thanks to all of my friends and colleagues, most notably : Marie-Claire Bataille, Harry Beran, Laurent Dodier, Prof. Kenneth E. Olsen, Dr. Roland Bourdieux, the Bernice P. Bishop Museum staff and specifically Mara Mulrooney, Daniel Blau, Philippe Peltier, Michael Hamson, Christian Coiffier, Marc Ottino, Ingo Kaczmarek, Bill Gammage, Michele Hornn & the Musée de l’Orangerie, May Kobbi, Richard Aldridge, Lars Krutak, Michel Thieme, Roland Bourdeix... For the text on coconuts in general : • https://source.wustl.edu/2011/06/deep-history-of-coconuts-decoded/ • Ashman , F. & Grimwood, Brian E. : Coconut Palm Products: Their Processing in Developing Countries. Tropical Products Institute. Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 1975 • Lutz, Diana : Written in coconut DNA are two origins of cultivation, several ancient trade routes, and the history of the colonization of the Americas. Washington University in Saint Louis, 2011 (https://source.wustl.edu/2011/06/ deep-history-of-coconuts-decoded/Deep history of coconuts decoded) • N Madhavan Nayar : The Coconut : Phylogeny, Origins, and Spread. Academic Press, Cambrige, 2017 For the text on kava : • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kava • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325077/ Photography of coconuts : Michel Gurfinkel, Paris All images and text © Galerie Meyer Oceanic Art unless stated otherwise : • Admiralty boy climbing a Coconut tree : MEL.ADM.007 : © Galerie Meyer - Oceanic Art • Admiralty Island Man with ladle : MEL.ADM.006 : © Galerie Meyer - Oceanic Art • Fijian Women making Kava : POL.FIJ.048 : © Galerie Meyer - Oceanic Art • Fiji Constabulary : POL.FIJ.132 : © Galerie Meyer - Oceanic Art • Otto Ernst : © Galerie Meyer - Oceanic Art • Ernst Lehr : © Galerie Meyer - Oceanic Art • Coconut Crab New Caledonia : MEL.NC.150 : © Galerie Meyer - Oceanic Art Other photos : • Crocodile Man : © Lars Krutak / www.larskrutak.com • SMS Condor postcard : © Verlag von Gebr. Ladewigs, Wilhelmshaven. •J o h n L a Fa r g e : © h t t p : / / w w w. a l l p a i n t i n g s . o r g / d / 1 3 8 8 9 8 - 1 / J o h n + L a Fa r g e + +Young+Girls+Preparing+Kava_+Outside+of+the+Hut+Whose+Posts+Are+Decorated+wih+Flowers.jpg • AU PMB PHOTO 46-1737 : © Bill Gammage & College of Asia and the Pacific The Australian National University • Rudolf von Bennigsen : © https://sites.google.com/site/simpsonhafen/home/deutsch-neuguinea • Adolf Hoffmeister : © Sotheby’s • Thierry Arbousset : © Défap-Service protestant de mission, Paris • Philippe Francois : © Tajan, December 2002 • Mibash of Karama with his kaiavurus (marupai) : © F.E. Williams (between 1922 and 1939) • Man wearing an eye-mask : © Phil Birnbaum : Faces of Papua New Guinea, Birnbaum & Strathern, Emperor Publishing, Darlinhurst, Australia, 1990 • Plate IV : Sentani lime pots : © Nova Guinea. VOL. III. ETHNOGRAPHY AND ANTHROPOLOGY, Late. J. Brill Publishers and Printers, Leyden - 1907

Every effort has been made to ensure correct copyright procedure. In the event you feel that your copyright has not been correctly asserted please contact Galerie Meyer – Oceanic Art, Paris. Descriptions, texts, layout and artwork : Galerie Meyer - Oceanic Art, Paris. Reproduction or publication in any form or format, either whole or partial, of the items, images, photos, works of art and texts contained in this publication is prohibited without formal written approval. Digital distribution by www.issuu.com in September 2018 – this catalogue is not printed on paper for general distribution.

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Galerie Meyer Oceanic Art & Eskimo Art 17 Rue des Beaux-Arts - Paris 75006 - France + 33 6 80 10 80 22 ajpmeyer@gmail.com    www.meyeroceanic.art Membre du Syndicat Français des Experts Professionnels en Œuvres d’Art et Objets de Collection Membre de la Chambre Européenne des Experts d’Art Membre du Syndicat National des Antiquaires Membre du Comité Scientifique André Breton

"NUTS...!" The Coconut in Oceania  

A selection of beautiful, traditional and early art works from the Island cultures of Oceania made with coconuts. This is the catalogue of t...

"NUTS...!" The Coconut in Oceania  

A selection of beautiful, traditional and early art works from the Island cultures of Oceania made with coconuts. This is the catalogue of t...