Damarau or Sago Storage Vessel

In Papua New Guinea, the land along the winding Sepik River is home to a number of tribes that produce some of the most magnificent artworks in the country. Aibom, a large village situated by the Chambri Lake, is particularly renowned for their pottery works. Their highly decorative wares are used for cooking, eating and storing. Damarau are the largest of the vessels and are used to store sago, a starchy flour extracted from the soft core of sago palms and a staple component of everyday meals.

Damarau are decorated with the faces of animals such as pigs and birds, masks and bush spirits. Though it is the women who mix clay and shape the vessels, only the men are permitted to embellish them with the distinctive features. This is because the faces, carved and painted with great detail, represent spiritual beings associated with two mythological deities: Meintumbangge and Kolimangge. There are many myths surrounding the deities but one describes how Kolimangge initially taught the women of the tribe how to create pottery.

Damarau vessels were not only made for personal use but for trade as well. They hold significant value and can be exchanged for large quantities of produce, livestock, plants, canoes and other essential goods. Due to their functionality, quality pieces of Damarau are rare and therefore maintain an equally high value in the collector's world as well.