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Carved Wooden Food Carrying Container (Koppit)
Bontoc People, Northern Luzon, Philippines
height: 21.5cm, height: 15.5cm, width: 9cm
This very fine example of a northern Luzon food box or koppit, has been carved in two halves. Such boxes were used by men to carry food to the fields where
they worked. Probably, they were used for other purposes too, such as for storing salted pork and tobacco.
The form of the example here is based on basket work - on the type of basket the travellers might use to carry their belongings. It also happens to be shaped
as a pillow - and indeed, it might have been used as a headrest in the fields for a post-meal nap or at night - with tapering, rounded sides and arches at either
end. There are the remnants of pairs old carved wooden lugs at each end - lugs on each end allowed a cord to be attached so that the containers could be
worn around the neck and carried that way.
This example is notable for its excellent dark, encrusted patina and ample wear, demonstrating its clear age. The rich, varying patina and wear allows for a
19th century attribution. The patina comes from decades of use and handling. The colour comes from being rubbed with animal fats after each meal to help
protect the vessel, which in combination with soot from the hearth gives such containers their characteristic dark colour.
Moltzau Anderson (2010, p. 142) illustrates several later examples of koppit containers.
The Bontoc people inhabit the mountainous provinces of northern Luzon island in the Philippines. The religious beliefs of the Bontoc are a complex structure
of ancestor worship, animism and magical power. Numerous spiritual entities that represent natural elements, forces and phenomena, and ancestral and
metaphysical beings are acknowledged, worshipped, appeased and appealed to. Generally the gods are seen as generous and benign beings who enjoy
feasting, drinking wine and chewing betel nut, just as the tribes people themselves do. And so there is a blending of food and beverage serving vessels
between the utilitarian and the ritual.
Afable, P., et al, Philippines: an Archipelago of Exchange, ACTES SUD/ Musee du Quai Branly, 2013.
Casal, G. et al, The People and Art of the Philippines, UCLA Museum of Cultural History, 1981.
Moltzau Anderson, E., In the Shape of Tradition: Indigenous Art of the Northern Philippines, C. Zwartenkot Art Books, 2010.
Provenance: UK art market; private European collection
Inventory no.: 3900
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