Image: Basket, West Papua (Irian Jaya) E87186

Basket, West Papua (Irian Jaya) E87186

Local name: an

Provenance: Jow village, Datsju River, Central Asmat (south coast), West Papua (Irian Jaya)

This basket was most likely used for holding sago grubs which figure prominently in all Asmat cultural ceremonies. In preparation for feasting sometimes hundreds of sago palms are cut down and holes drilled in them so that the Capricorn beetle will lay its eggs in them. The grubs, which hatch 30-40 days later, constitute an important supplement of fat to the limited diet of the Asmat and can be eaten raw or roasted on coals.
The Sago Grub Feast (to pambi), practised by the Casuarina coastal Asmat people, is held at the opening ceremony of the men’s house (jeu). Carefully selected leaf-sheaths from particularly beautiful sago trees are folded and stitched to form a rectangular container which will hold the grubs during the ceremony. While the women dance in the jeu house, the men go to the forest to collect the grubs, filling the container. This object came into the Australian Museum’s collection through donation in 1994.

Description: rectangular folded sago spathe basket, sewn each end with split cane, rim over-sewn with split cane; split cane handle; six double tassles of cassowary feathers and job's Tear seeds; two tassles of fibre rings.

Height: 14cm; Length: 40cm; Width: 24cm

Emma Furno
© Australian Museum

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