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Oru (cooking pot)

mid 20th century


Motuan people

Papua New Guinea


Motuan women from villages in the area around Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea were once prolific potters, their wares exchange through the traditional 'hiri' trading voyages undertaken by Motuan men. In former times, pots were carried in boats, known as 'lakatoi', along the coast to the Papuan Gulf and exchanged for sago. Today there are only a handful of Motuan women versed in traditional pottery making, as inexpensive metal saucepans have virtually replaced clay vessels.

Pots are formed from clay mixed with sand and sprinkled with sea water until the correct plasticity is reached. The rounded bases of broken vessels are used to form new pots, the soft clay dragged up the inner side walls to create a rounded shape. After a period of drying in the sun, a stone anvil and wooden paddle are then used to shape the walls until thinned out, and a near perfect sphere is formed. Simple geometric patterns are incised on the rim and sides using a shell and, after further drying in the sun, the pots are low-fired on a bed of coconut fronds and leaf stems. Following firing, and while still hot, the pots are coated with a mixture of mangrove bark soaked in water and then rubbed with various leaves and plants to seal the surface.


Other Title

Cooking pot

Place where the work was made

Porebada Central Province Papua New Guinea

Cultural origin

Motuan people


mid 20th century

Media category


Materials used

earthenware, incised design, partly blackened


24.1 cm height; 31.8 cm diameter (rim) :

0 - Whole; 24.1 cm; diameter at rim

0 - Whole; 31.8 cm


Gift of Lieutenant Commander MW Varley 1964


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Motuan people

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


The traditional pottery of Papua New Guinea, 'Central Province', pg. 55-72, Kensington, 1982. General reference to Motuan pottery.

1964 Acquisitions, Sydney, 1964, 62. 113

Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 41. 7