Bowl (Apia nie)

Date: late 19th–early 20th century

Geography: Papua New Guinea, Wuvulu

Culture: Wuvuluvian

Medium: Wood

Dimensions: H. 1 3/4 x W. 7 1/4 x D. 12 5/8 in. (4.5 x 18.4 x 32.1 cm)

Classification: Wood-Containers

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.206.1428


The unique hourglass-shaped bowls, called apia nie, created on the islands of Wuvulu and Aua north of New Guinea embody the spare, minimalist aesthetic of Micronesian art. Still made today, apia nie are used specifically to collect coconut milk, extracted by squeezing balls of grated coconut meat over the bowl. The wide, shallow ends of the bowls curve gently downward toward the deeper center, in which the freshly squeezed liquid collects. Despite their apparent delicacy, apia nie are everyday vessels in widespread use. Many older examples develop a distinctive glossy patina through years of contact with the oil in the coconut milk. In most cases, the form of the vessel, as here, serves as its only adornment, but the interiors of some examples are painted with linear geometric designs.