These containers have been decorated with scrimshaw using the simplest of tools in the highlands of central West Timor and house the lime powder [au], tobacco, siri leaf or asparagus and betel nut [pua].
Betel Nut chewing has reached ritual like proportions in the West Timor. Chewing of Betel has huge social and physical significance placed upon it. Betel to the Timorese is as the coco leaf is to the South American Indians. It puts extra oxygen into the bloodstream enabling the chewer to work longer and harder in the fields with less food [with a buzz]. This is important in a society where most of the people are subsistence level farmers and food is not an easy or regular thing.
Most Timorese men and many women enjoy a chew any time of night or day especially when visiting and greeting each other. Timor has created a spectacular range of paraphernalia surrounding this well-loved pastime and much to our collective joy these treasures are still made and used daily.
Betel nut accessories range from plainer containers for the betel [tiba], the asparagus like fruit or leaves and tobacco Then there are to more elaborately carved lime powder containers [kal au] whose motifs tell of the carvers clan and totemic guardian spirits both made from a variety of materials.
There are boxes to store your stash in at home [tempat siri], hand-made cutters and crushers for when your teeth are too eaten away from the lime to be able to break open your betel. Beautiful hand-woven man bags [aluk] and for the women hand-woven [mama tas] for everything to be carried about in.
Betel nut containers are hand crafted using bamboo, wood, bone, metal/silver, coconut, gourds or buffalo horn and more recently pvc piping. The containers are quite specific in use. No two are ever the same.
Copyright Julie Emery 12/03/2018