Palm Spathe

PalmSpathe web

The spathe is the woody part of a palm tree that surrounds the flower.  Cultures in tropical areas use this part of the tree for a variety of purposes.
This palm spathe is from Saragum Village in the East Sepik River Province of Papua New Guinea.  It features an image of a sitting male figure.  Painted palm spathes of this type are used to decorate the front of a men’s house, also known as Haus Tambaran, a building where the men of the village negotiate with the spirit world to assure the villagers’ security and good fortune.

Dogon Ladder

Dogon LadderThe Dogon people of Mali create ladders by carving wedges into tree trunks that fork at the top.  The notches serve as footholds, while the fork at the top stabilizes the ladder.  The Dogon use ladders to climb to their traditional cliff dwellings and to raised granaries.

Slit Gong

Slit gongs (sometimes called slit drums) are a popular type of percussion instrument used by cultures in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.  The Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, created this one by hollowing out a piece of wood, carving traditional designs into the surface, and then painting the ends to enhance the designs.  The Maori use slit gongs as musical accompaniment during ceremonies.

Yupik Hat

Yupik Hat
Hats of this type are worn by the Yupik people of Alaska in the spring to protect against the sun’s glare.  This hat was made in the Kuskokwim River Valley from bone and very thin sheets of wood.  The white paint that originally covered the wood has largely worn away.  The hat was collected by Moravian missionaries based in Bethel, Alaska and was donated to the Museum as a part of the Wachovia Historical Society Collection.

Huichol Votive Bowl

This votive bowl from the Huichol culture was made in Jalisco, Mexico.  Huichol shamans make these bowls as offerings to the gods so they will hear prayers for health, luck, and well-being.  The bowl is created from a dried gourd which is lined with beeswax.  Multicolored beads are then impressed in the wax to create elaborate designs.  On this bowl, the design depicts a peyote cactus in the center surrounded by maize plants, jackrabbits, cattle, deer, and people.

Zulu Love Letter

Zulu Love Letters are beaded messages given as symbols of love and affection.  The Zulu are the largest ethnic group in South Africa, and are known for their beadwork, which can be used to convey many different messages.  In this love letter, the colors have the following meanings:

BROWN: My love is like the earth that gives rise to new life.
BLUE: Faithfulness.  If I were a dove, I would fly through blue skies to reach you.
YELLOW: Wealth (or lack thereof).  If we marry, I will be hungry as you own no bull to slaughter.