We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Sombti (ritual object, part of a somb)

mid 20th century
collected 1969


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Other Titles
    Somp, worn by leader of a clan
    Kina wallet
    Place where the work was made
    Map Mendi Southern Highlands Province Papua New Guinea
    Cultural origin
    Mendi people
    mid 20th century
    collected 1969
    Media category
    Ceremonial object
    Materials used
    wood, red ochre pigment, white pigment, plant seeds, rattan, bark, plant fibre string, sedge grass
    18.5 x 14.6 x 1.2 cm :

    a - sombti, 18.5 x 14.6 x 1.2 cm

    b - leaf bundle, 25 x 16 cm, approximate dimensions of leaf bundle

    Purchased 1977
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Mendi people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    The 'sombti' is a wooden, crescent-shaped object which accompanies the highly valued 'somb'. In former times the 'somb' was kept as an item of prestige - a symbol of clan unity and social solidarity amongst the Mendi of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. The 'sombti' is not as valuable as the 'somb' itself and is made only to decorate the 'somb'.

    Many people are involved in making the 'sombti'. One brings the wood which is shaped into a crescent. Another contributes red paint to decorate the 'sombti', while others bring 'ti kulimb', or tree moss, and other materials to decorate the item.

    Those involved in making the 'sombti' and decorating the 'somb' are each paid when the 'somb' is sold, even though they may not have contributed to the purchase of the 'somb'.

    [see Theodore Mawe, 'Mendi culture and tradition: a recent survey', PNG National Museum, Record No. 10, 1985, pg. 32-41]

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 3 publications