Artist: Artist Once Known
Culture/People: Massim
Place: Papua New Guinea, Melanesia
Media:Wood, lime pigment
Dims: 3.9 x 8.75 x 2.5 in. (9.8 x 22.2 x 6.35 cm)
Date:  Early 20th Century
RTC No. OC0009
Gift of Ralph T. Coe, 2011


“… Upon seeing the figure, the pig has an overwhelming “adorable” sense to it. As modern-day tourist attractions give off an appealing sense to those meant to purchase it, this charm emits a friendly, companion-like energy.” wrote Sophie Bunch, a student curator in the 2016 Hands-on Curatorial Program Culture Exchange: The Unspoken Truth.

This endearing pig made by a member of the Massim cultural group dates to the early 20th century. Massim refers to a region that includes the southeastern tip of Papua New Guinea, the nearby offshore islands, and the peoples originating there. This area has a distinct carving style that combines abstract designs that are shallowly carved with human or animal figures. Although many types of items are carved, lime spatulas are particularly numerous. 

Although the exact history of this item’s creation is unknown, it was likely made for trade. The pig is made of one piece of wood and is smooth to the touch. The surface of the dark wood is decorated with lighter-colored carvings due to powdered lime being rubbed into carved depressions on the surface.

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