An image of Sombti (ritual object, part of a somb)

Unknown Artist

Sombti (ritual object, part of a somb)

Other titles:
Somp, worn by leader of a clan, Kina wallet, Shomp
Not on display
Further information

The 'sombti' is a wooden, crescent-shaped object which accompanies the highly valued 'somb'. In former times the 'somb' was kept as an item of prestige - a symbol of clan unity and social solidarity amongst the Mendi of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. The 'sombti' is not as valuable as the 'somb' itself and is made only to decorate the 'somb'.

Many people are involved in making the 'sombti'. One brings the wood which is shaped into a crescent. Another contributes red paint to decorate the 'sombti', while others bring 'ti kulimb', or tree moss, and other materials to decorate the item.

Those involved in making the 'sombti' and decorating the 'somb' are each paid when the 'somb' is sold, even though they may not have contributed to the purchase of the 'somb'.

[see Theodore Mawe, 'Mendi culture and tradition: a recent survey', PNG National Museum, Record No. 10, 1985, pg. 32-41]

Place of origin
Map, Mendi, Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea
Cultural origin
Mendi people
mid 20th century
collected 1969
Ceremonial object
wood, red ochre pigment, white pigment, plant seeds, rattan, bark, plant fibre string, sedge grass
18.5 x 14.6 x 1.2 cm :
a - sombti; 18.5 x 14.6 x 1.2 cm; approximate dimensions of leaf bundle
b - leaf bundle; 25 x 16 cm
Purchased 1977
Accession number
© Mendi people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics