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Cooking pot

early 20th century-mid 20th century


Usur people

Papua New Guinea

No image
  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Madang Province Papua New Guinea
    Cultural origin
    Usur people (Peka)
    early 20th century-mid 20th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    53.0 cm height; 14.0 cm diam. at rim opening; 22.0 cm diam. at widest point
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Gift of Todd Barlin 2020. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
    Not on display
    Accession number
    Artist information
    Usur people

    Works in the collection


  • About

    This elongated cooking pot is known by various names depending on the areas into which they were traded. The Garia and Kopoka people of the Ramu Valley call pots 'suma' and 'sema', respectively. According to the anthropologist Ian Hughes: 'In the lower Tauya Valley they are called 'sema', in the middle Tauya 'suma' and in the upper Tauya 'somo'. The Ramu people north of the Gende call them 'singgi' and the Gende call them 'garia', two intriguing name changes, since the Ramu people are the intermediaries. To the Chimbu they are 'gala'.

    Pots such as this were brought into the highlands through marriage exchanges or traded for wooden bowls, dry meat and bows, as the highlanders are not generally known for making pots. Clay was usually collected by women in quarries at the end of the wet season and beginning of the dry season. A very large pot such as this, needed up to ten kilos of clay. The body of the pot is formed by the coil method, starting with the bottom coil at the pointed base. Smoothing the outside with a piece of bamboo, the decoration across the neck is made with a bamboo stick.

    Made by men, the pots then became the possessions of women who used them on a daily basis.

    According to Margaret Tuckson and Patricia May:
    'When the pot is ready for drying it is bound by a woven support, taken to the men's house (a form of ritual) and suspended from the beams to dry for about one month. Hardwood from the bush is used as a fuel for firing the pots; dried pandanus leaves may also be used'.

    By the early 1980s, the production of these pots was in decline.

    For further examples see Margaret Tuckson and Patricia May, 'The traditional pottery of Papua New Guinea', Bay Books, Sydney, 1982, and Ian Hughes, 'Recent Neolithic trade in New Guine'’, PhD thesis, ANU, 1971

  • Places

    Where the work was made

    Madang Province