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Massim lime spatula, Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea
19 3/4" tall
wood, pigment
ex Sotheby's Paris (June 2008, lot 52)

$1000

A wonderfully elegant example with nice attention to detail in the carving. The base of the spatula has an almost
fish-like quality with an eye and mouth at one end that opens up to engulf the handle. Small dots incised into the
wood adorn two of the four planes on the handle. The spatula has a nice worn patina from use.

Lime spatulas and the betel nut chewing in which they are employed are integral parts of life in the Massim
area. Betel chewing is part of working in the gardens, attending feasts, meeting friends, trade rituals, and
making love for the people of East New Guinea and the Trobriands.

Betel is chewed by about one tenth of the world's population and the implements and ingredients vary from
culture to culture. In East New Guinea only the seed of the areca palm, the leaf of the betel plant and mineral
lime, which is burnt coral are chewed. Betel is a mild stimulant which reduces hunger pangs, produces feelings
of well-being, and increases energy for work. It also improves the odor of the breath and colors the teeth red. It
isn't clear which combination of ingredients causes the euphoria brought about by betel-chewing. However, it
appears that the alkaloids in the areca seed are released by the lime. The function of the lime spatula in this
ritual of betel chewing is to dip the lime from its container and then to carry the lime to the mouth where it
releases the nicotine-like properties of the areca seed and betel leaf
. “ Source - Kirby Kallas-Lewis
For additional detail, click on any photo below to see the higher resolution version of the image.