This bamboo vessel with traces of lime residue would have once formed part of a larger set of paraphernalia for the preparation and consumption of betel. The slaked lime contained within would have been combined with areca nut (‘pinang’) and other desired ingredients before being wrapped in betel (‘sirih’) leaves to form chewing quads. As well as producing a mild
stimulative effect, betel was believed to possess medicinal and magical properties, and to facilitate contact with the supernatural world. Throughout Borneo even the most utilitarian items were embellished with elaborate designs alluding to plants and creatures from the natural world as well as those from the upper and lower realms. One of the most prominent designs is the mythical dragon–dog (‘aso’) motif, a fierce creature of the underworld associated with fertility and believed to provide great protection from malevolent spirits. In this container, a design of entwined ‘aso’ motifs has been carved into the surface of the bamboo tube. The designs have been abstracted to create a stylised yet identifiable reference to the large jaws and curling fangs of the composite beast.
19th century-20th century
Bamboo, rattan, metal, lime residue
31 x 5.7 x 5.7 cm
Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010
Not on display
Shown in 1 exhibition
Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–06 Jan 2019
Christopher Wilson, pre Nov 1986-1996, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, probably purchased in Sarawak, Malaysia mid 1970s or1985. Appears in 'Southeast Asian tribal art', an unpublished text by Christopher Wilson, College of Fine Arts, Sydney, November 1986.
Mariann Ford, 1996-Dec 2010, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, Inherited by Mariann Ford from the estate of Christopher Wilson. Gift to the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of the Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010.