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Thomas Murray

Betel nut chopper with handle in form of a crocodile head
Lombok or Bali
Horn, iron, bone inlay
19th or early 20th century
Ex Laurence A. G. Moss collection (purchased in Bali, 1980)

$8,000 USD

Exhibited: Art of the Lesser Sunda Islands: A Cultural Resource at Risk, San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum, San Francisco, June-August, 1986; Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, August–September, 1986 (no. 2). Published in Laurence A. G. Moss, Art of the Lesser Sunda Islands: A Cultural Resource at Risk, 1986 (fig. 2.).
8.5 in / 21.5 cm (handle alone: 4.7 in / 12 cm)  

A piece of betel nut from the areca palm (Areca catechu) would be placed in a metal cylinder and this chisel-like blade would serve as a chopper, moving up and down masticating the mildly intoxicating nut and making it possible for an old person with bad teeth to be able to chew. The buaya crocodile spirit is remarkably well captured here through bone inlays that bring emphasis to the apex predator's intelligent gaze and tough reptilian skin. The buaya is a totem animal better to honor as a friend than to have as an enemy, and the superb quality of this handle suggests a strong allegiance with it.