This superbly detailed, hand etched bamboo container was made to hold white lime powder, used in West Timor in Indonesia to accompany the chewing of betel nuts. There is still a dusting of lime powder inside along with a faint, pleasant citrus fragrance. The complex traditional designs were emphasized with natural dye that darkened the bamboo. The lid with its charming bird finial and the attached base were both hand carved of a local hardwood, probably Pterocarpus indicus. This container is called a kal-au in the Timorese language; it's polished with beeswax when completed and is one of a kind.
The chewing of betel quid-- a pinch of the powdered lime, a slice of betel nut wrapped in a pepper vine leaf---is a popular habit among the people of West Timor as well as throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, but it is in West Timor that it has reached such widespread and regular use. It's used as a stimulant to enable longer working hours with less food and is a social ritual, too. There is also a special container called a tiba which is used to store the betel nut, but these are shorter and have a wider opening. Local craftsmen make these containers in their spare time while resting; we've included a photo of a Timorese native etching a bamboo container and one of the prepared quid.
This kal-au is in excellent condition. The lid was not made to close tightly, but sits on the neck of the container fairly snugly. The container is slightly wobbly when it's first placed on a flat surface but stands straight and there are no chips, cracks or discolorations. It's 11 1/4 inches tall with the lid on, 8 1/4 inches without and has a 1 1/2 inch diameter opening. This Indonesian artifact adds an exotic note wherever it's placed in your home.