Kava drinking bowl - ROM2004_947_5


Kava drinking bowl

Medium:Carved wood
Geography: Melanesia or Polynesia, Fiji or Samoa
Date: 1850-1900
15.2 × 41.3 cm
Object number: HB151
Not on view
DescriptionKava was a popular drink of the royalty in Oceania and was made from the plant Piper methysticum. The Melanesians and Polynesians chewed the root of this plant, or mixed its pounded form with water to produce a brownish and slightly bitter drink, which is said to calm the nerves, reduce stress and combat fatigue. Kava is a social drink among the high-ranking chieftains and elders, and continues its traditional use in welcoming ceremonies for honoured guests in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. Sharing a kava bowl initiates and deepens friendships and facilitates socialization among the male members of the community. Captain Cook brought back the first kava bowls from his voyages to the Pacific in 1768-1771 and perhaps conveyed the first descriptions of how kava was used in sacred ceremonies. According to Museum records, the kava bowl pictured here was obtained in the Cook Islands, though kava is not grown there. The bowl may have been traded or brought to the Cook Islands. Additional Reading: 1. Lebot, Vincent et al. 1992. Kava: The Pacific Drug. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 2. Pollock, Nancy et al. 1995. “The Power of Kava”. Canberra Anthropology, Vol. 18, nos. 1 & 2.
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