Amulet Trail: Coconut amulet, Papua New Guinea

1938.36.278PRM 1938.36.278

This is a marupai – an amulet made from a dwarf coconut (around 13cm in length), carved with clan motifs and rubbed with white lime to emphasize the design. Marupai are still used in Papua New Guinea today, passed from uncles to nephews. The carvings represent animals and fish assigned to different clans of Orokolo people. A marupai is carried for various magical purposes: to protect against evil spirits and disease, to bring good weather or luck in hunting, or even to bring about the death of an enemy. Often bark, seeds or magic bones are stuck in its mouth to make it more powerful.

1998.442.98This amulet was collected by Beatrice Blackwood in 1937. Blackwood worked at the Museum for 40 years and became indispensable for her encyclopedic knowledge of the collections in the days before computer databases. She provided the Museum with more than 10,000 objects and photographs from places such as Papua New Guinea and North America. Blackwood's only companion during her fieldwork was a kitten, whose antics helped break down communication barriers with some of the indigenous peoples she encountered.

Blackwood in Canada in 1925. PRM 1998.442.98

Artisans of Memory

Behind the scenes of an amulets project

This series of short films follows the progress and practices of those connected with the Small Blessings project as they unravel the stories surrounding these curious objects.

The full series of films may be viewed here.


Amulets Competition

The competition is now closed and a winner has been announced. Find out more here.

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