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Massim Spatula

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RTCFA No. OC 0015
Massim Spatula
Artist: Unknown
Wood, 13.5 x 1.25 x 1.25 in. (34.2 x 3.1 x 3.1 cm).

Geographic Location: Milne Bay Province
Region: Melanesia
Group / Tribe: Trobriand Islands

Description: The Massim people live in Milne Bay Province, the eastern most region of the New Guinea mainland, located just above Australia in the South Pacific. This area includes the Trobriand Islands (now known as the Kiriwina Islands) and are part of the nation of Papua New Guinea. According to Trobriand Chief Narubutua, human figure spatulas such as this one were used for magical protection during kula voyages. To that purpose, the magician called on the spirit (tokwai) to enter the figure and protect the owner during his sleep. These voyages were undertaken as part of the exchange system known as the kula ring which were linked to political power. Participants traveled at times hundreds of miles by canoe in order to exchange kula valuables.