Betel Mortar
Middle Sepik River region, Papua New Guinea, 19th c.
Previous Collection: John Friede, Rye, New York

Wooden betel mortars are fairly common in New Guinea, but this one is special. It is stone carved, and has a wonderful handled encrusted surface with most of the red ochre pigment still intact. The cavity inside the mortar shows extensive signs of use. What really sets this piece apart is that it packs so much art into its small size. The two primary faces in Janus form are Flying Foxes. But holding this piece in one’s hand and turning it around and upside down reveals many hidden faces. The ones that are not so obvious are: when holding the mortar upside side with the base upright, two faces are revealed on each side, with eyes made up of concentric circles and a big smiling mouth. Another face I am drawn to is when holding the mortar by its handle and arching the cavity of the mortar at downward angle, this cavity becomes the mouth of another face.

Its height is 3.25 inches tall
IN 11-10-11/ SOLD