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Bruce Frank Primitive Art
New York City, NY
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Betel Mortar

Murik Lakes, Papua New Guinea
Early 20th c

Provenance: Ben Tursch collection, Brussels
Published: “Island Guardians”, Bruce Frank Primitive Art, 2018, fig. 20.

People of the Murik Lakes region chew betel nut with lime, for its stimulant virtues. Elders use betel mortars when they cannot chew anymore, to regularly crush the nut with a pestle in order to release the active substance. Male elders carry betel mortars as marks of authority. This particular example is quite unusual as it actually depicts an old bearded man with a hunched back. The mortar, with its traces of red pigment and worn and patinated surface, was used over a long period of time.

Betel Mortar

Murik Lakes, Papua New Guinea
Early 20th c

Provenance: Ben Tursch collection, Brussels
Published: “Island Guardians”, Bruce Frank Primitive Art, 2018, fig. 20.

People of the Murik Lakes region chew betel nut with lime, for its stimulant virtues. Elders use betel mortars when they cannot chew anymore, to regularly crush the nut with a pestle in order to release the active substance. Male elders carry betel mortars as marks of authority. This particular example is quite unusual as it actually depicts an old bearded man with a hunched back. The mortar, with its traces of red pigment and worn and patinated surface, was used over a long period of time.

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