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Hodu (water pot)

collected (circa 1964)


Unknown Artist


Traditional clay pot making is common in Central Province, especially among the Motuan villagers. It is also popular in the Milne Bay Province, Tufi in Northern Province and other parts of the country.

Firstly, women dig their clay from pits beside the beaches or sides of hills and then carry it to the village in string bags. The clay is cleaned of impurities and broken into small pieces. It is then left to dry.

The dry clay is then placed on a bed of beach sand and is sprinkled with sea water. The potter then kneads the clay and sand together until she feels the texture is good. She then puts the clay into a rough sphere and puts it in the base of a broken pot.

A hole is made in the centre of the ball of clay and the villagers use their fingers to drag the soft clay out the middle to build up the walls. The broken pot meanwhile acts as a turntable.

When the pot is roughly the right shape, they smooth the outsides with their hands and form the rim by running wet fingers around the top edge, keeping their thumbs inside the pots.

Sometimes they make a cooking pot (Uro), sometimes a water pot (Hodu) or even a flat dish (Nau).

The pot is then briefly beaten and put in the sun to dry. When it is reasonably firm, the potter holds the pot on her lap and places a round stone on the inside while hitting the outside with a wooden beater. Round and round goes the pot until the walls are perfectly symmetrical. Several types of beaters are used before the potter is satisfied with her work.

The pot is again placed in the sun to dry, then decorated with a pattern similar to the tattoos on the woman's arm.

To fire the pots, the potter pre-heats them on a small fire until they are blackened.

The pots are then placed in a larger fire that is heaped very high with vegetable matter. When the pots have become reddish brown all over, the pots are lifted from the ashes and splashed with a mixture of water and tanning from mangrove bark.

Traditionally, each Motu village produces a different type of pot. Some have thick walls while some are thin. The shape of the neck and lip of the pot also vary. Gulf trading partners usually had clear preferences for the type of pot they required and would only welcome lagatois from one village. The claim was 'their preferred shape' made food taste better when they were cooked in those pots.

"Popular clay pots", 'Post-Courier', Port Moresby, 25-27 February 2005


Place where the work was made

Porebada Central Province Papua New Guinea

Cultural origin

Motu people


collected (circa 1964)

Media category


Materials used

earthenware, grey patina


24.1 cm height


Gift of Lieutenant Commander MW Varley 1964


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1964 Acquisitions, Sydney, 1964, 63. 114

Margaret Tuckson and Patricia May, The traditional pottery of Papua New Guinea, 'Central Province', pg. 55-72, Kensington, 1982. General reference to Motu pottery.

Tony Tuckson, Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Sydney, 1973, 41. 8