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Pacific art

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Suma (cooking pot)

collected 1961


Unknown Artist


This elongated cooking pot - known as a 'suma' by the Sumau and Usino villagers of the Peka River region - was most likely traded into the Bundi area. From there it made its way to Goroka, where it was collected by Stan Moriarty in 1961.

Pots such as these 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. Made by Peka men, they then became the possessions of women who married into highlands groups.

'Suma' pots are described by Margaret Tuckson and Patricia May as:

'... deep with ellipsoid or ovoid bodies, they have everted cone-shaped bases, are retricted and have direct rims. There are forms with inflected necks or no necks; the walls of the vessels are retricted, cylindrical or everted. Decoration generally extends from the rim down to the inflection point and design motifs are more varied, using incised lines to form vertical, horizontal, zig-zag or scalloped designs ... [Garia vessels] are decorated by applied coiled patterns, incised lines, point impression and combinations of different elements'.

The body of the 'suma' 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. According to Tuckson and 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 'suma' pots was in decline.

For further examples of 'suma' see Margaret Tuckson and Patricia May, 'The traditional pottery of Papua New Guinea', Bay Books, Sydney, 1982.

Natalie Wilson
Curator, Australian & Pacific Art, 2014


Other Title


Place where the work was made

Peka River Madang Province Papua New Guinea

Cultural origin

Peka people


collected 1961

Media category


Materials used

low-fired earthenware, incised decoration at neck


53.0 cm height; 20.0 cm diameter at widest point; 10.4 cm diameter at opening


Gift of Stan Moriarty 1977


Not on display

Accession number


Referenced in 1 publication


Margaret Tuckson and Patricia May, The traditional pottery of Papua New Guinea, Kensington, 1982. For other examples of 'suma' pots, see pages 188-191.