Betel mortar

Photography Carl Warner

Registration number
Item name
Betel mortar 
Indigenous name
Urisaku of Gawa Island (Marshall Bennett Is.)  
Associated cultural group
Pacific > Papua New Guinea > Milne Bay Province > Samarai Murua District > Gawa Island
Mr Michael James Healy 
Acquisition date
March 28, 1978 
Acquisition method
On loan from Mr W. C. and Mrs J. A. Moloney  
Raw material
ebony wood
H: 200 mm W: 80 mm L: D: Circum:


Carved wood betel mortar with three seated figures; central female figure has a tall cylinder 'hat' which forms a receptacle.

Research notes

Betel mortar made c. 1947.

Harry Beran a visiting researcher compiling a book on Melanesian shields for the Oceanic Art Society identified the maker of this betel pestle as Urisaku (c.1915-1999). Urisaku was the greatest Kula canoe carver of his generation within the Marshall Bennett Islands c.1960s [08/05/2000]. Beran has studied this artist's work in depth and has written articles on the artist for the Oceanic Arts publication, The World of Tribal Arts Magazine. Beran is considered an expert on Massim Region art and crafts.

For more information see: Beran, H 2007, 'The Fame of Urisaku: Master Carver of Gawa, Massim Region, Papua New Guinea', in Stevenson K & Webb V (eds), Re-presenting Pacific Art, Crawford House Publishing, Adelaide, pp. 28-57.

Double Up exhibition label: "Urisaku, who lived and worked on Gawa in the Marshall Bennett Islands, was a successful kula man and reputedly the most powerful magician in Milne Bay province. He was a highly skilled master carver of kula canoes and also made work to sell to white people after serving as a carrier for the Australian Army in World War Two. He was among those to whom anthropologist Nancy Munn dedicated her well-known ethnography, 'The Fame of Gawa'."

From the UQ Anthropology Museum exhibition 'Double Up: Pasifika Treasures from the UQ Anthropology Museum' curated by Diana Young with Jane Willcock, 5 February - 9 April 2010.

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