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Oko Mama
Seneng
Oko Mama
Betel Nut Basket (2007)
  • Bajawa village, Flores
  • Lontar palm leaf
  • Height 7 cm. (3 in)
  • Code # C.FL.BA.006

A matriarch with a bag of powdered lime,
Bajawa, Flores
This oko mama basket was made in Bajawa, a small market town nestled among the volcanoes of central Flores. It was woven from the fragrant young leaves of the lontar palm (Borassus flabellifer). Bajawans fill their oko mama with the ingredients of a quid known in the West as betel nut: nuts from the pinang palm (Areca catechu), leaves and peppery flower spikes from the male sireh plant (Piper betle), and powdered lime. The mixture produces a mild intoxication--and a mass of red saliva. Chewing betel quid also suppresses the appetite, a useful side-effect in areas where food and water are not plentiful.

The Ngada people of Bajawa live in a matrilineal society--to this day, all Bajawans claim descent from one of seven women. Upon marriage, a man moves into his wife`s home and becomes a part of her family. All property descends through the female line, and nothing of value can be bought or sold without the consent of a household`s women.