- Captain Sydney Mercer-Smith
- Acquisition date
- December 08, 1951
- Acquisition method
- Donated by Mr Sydney Mercer-Smith
- Raw material
- Wood; shell, oyster (Pteriidae sp.); adhesive, natural (putty nut)
- H: 320 mm W: 12 mm L: D: 12 mm Circum:
Lime spatula carved from dark wood. The handle is rectangular with four sides and a row of pearl shell inlaid on each side. The blade is cylindrical with a sharp point and widens toward the handle. Registration number 2141 marked on blade in black on white base.
From the UQ Anthropology Museum exhibition ‘Solomon Islands: Re-enchantment and the Colonial Shadow’, a scholarly project curated by Diana Young in collaboration with research consultants Graham Baines, Annie Ross, Clive Moore and David Akin, August 2016 – June 2017.
These highly carved spatulas are accessories showing rank and are often used for ornament only. Betel nut chewing is a pastime known in parts of Asia and the Pacific where betel nut, the seed of the areca palm (Areca catechu), is chewed with betel leaves and lime made from burnt shell and coral. Used frequently as a mild stimulant and for medicinal purposes, the betel nut stains user's saliva, lips and teeth red [ref H. Beran, Betel-chewing Equipment of East New Guinea].
Acquired as part of a large group of objects donated to the University’s Anthropology Museum by Mr Sydney Mercer-Smith. The objects were collected by his father Captain Sydney Mercer-Smith in the years 1893-1900 while he was employed as a Queensland government agent in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Captain Mercer-Smith worked on the Queensland labour trade vessels to oversee the recruitment of Islanders for work on the sugar plantations in Queensland and to prevent unlawful recruitment known as ‘blackbirding’ [Mercer-Smith source file].