This is a lidded basket for betel chew, made out of lontar palm leaves, with a raised design on the lid.

The lontar palm is also known as a fan tree because of the long shape of its leaves. It is used for many things across Indonesia: the trunk as supporting pillars for houses, the branches to make fences and the leaves for weaving roofs or for plaiting mats and weaving baskets. This small basket was made to carry betel for chewing. Betel chewing is widely practiced across Asia as it provides a stimulant, but it also tends to stain people’s teeth a reddish-black colour.

This basket was collected and donated to the Museum by Ann Douthwaite who worked in the diplomatic service across many different countries around the world. She was first posted to New York in 1970 and went on to serve in the regions of Oman, the Philippines, the Americas, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia (1978-80), Tokyo, Japan (1984-87), Algiers, Algeria (1987-90), Jakarta, Indonesia (1991-94) and Canberra, Australia (1996-2000). She also carried out missions to Africa. It is likely that this particular betel chew basket came from her time spent in Indonesia in the early 1990s. Ann Douthwaite told staff at the Museum that “As well as the privilege of an insight into the mores, culture, colour and beauty of these countries [her job] also enabled me to acquire items which formed my 'memory bank' of these countries once I was back in the UK”. Ann also shared that she had always had an overwhelming urge to go abroad.

Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

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