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,
This oko mam
a 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.