Unlike ordinary everyday food bowls, which were well carved but undecorated, Apira Ni Mwane ritual bowls intended for food offered in religious ceremonies held within the canoe house were richly carved with icons such as sharks, frigate birds and bonito fish and decorated with shell inlays
This rare example features a sinuous shell inlaid serpent, symbolising Mwa, the snake clan of Santa Ana and Santa Catalina, the small neighbouring islands immortalised by their native names of Owa Raha and Owa Riki in Hugo Bernatzik’s famous book of the 1930s.
A secondary interpretation of the snake symbol is that it represents Kahausibware, the snake god who brought death to the world, suggesting that the bowl might have been used to hold foods presented to the gods during a funerary ritual.
This bowl is well carved, with a bonito fish head at either end or a curving snake on each side, all decorated with shell inlays. (Kevin Conru and Deborah Waite have suggested that the carving of a bowl was the ultimate test of a young carver because of the difficulty of getting the shape and the evenness of the walls perfect - Solomon Islands Art: The Conru Collection, 2008).
Dimensions: 45 x 14 x 9.5 cm / 17 ¾ x 5 ½ x 3 ¾ inches