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


Taph (lime stick)

early 20th century-mid 20th century
collected 1965


Iatmul people

Papua New Guinea

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Tambanum Village Middle Sepik River East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
    Cultural origin
    Iatmul people
    early 20th century-mid 20th century
    collected 1965
    Media category
    Materials used
    cassowary bone (Casuarius)
    29.2 x 5.0 x 1.8 cm
    Purchased 1965
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Iatmul people

    Works in the collection


  • About

    With its distinctive beak, the bird on the top of this 'taph' (lime stick) was identified by Justin Kami of Tambanum village as the 'maingie', or palm cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus), a totemic emblem of a particular clan group in the Sepik belief system.

    Among the Iatmul, who originated from the Sawos-speaking region north of the Sepik River, tribes are broken down into many 'ngaiva' (patrilineal totem clans), which are divided into moieties called 'nyowe' (sun) and 'nyame' (mother/earth). This duality arises from Iatmul origin myths. In the primordial waters, there lived a dual being in the form of a crocodile, Karokmali – Jamburamali. The spirit Karambuangga separated these beings: Jamburamali became the sky and Karokmali remained below and became the earth.

    [entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 8]

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 1 publication

    • Tony Tuckson, Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 44. cat.no. 42, 'Lime stick, handle in the form of a parrot head. Tambanum village (Iatmul). Cassowary bone, carved. 43l Collected 1965 (49)'

Other works by Iatmul people

See all 44 works