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Museum of Oxford Digital Exhibitions

Coconut creativity

Mark's coconut grater

Mark using the grater

Mark's coconut grater Mark's coconut grater

Mark Bhagwandin

"So you’re on a chair and you sit on the wooden part, the end sticks out, you have a basin at the bottom of the chair and then you grate the coconut, so as you grate it, the kernel falls into the basin. 

It’s very very common in Guyana, it’s what we used to have growing up. The main part is made of wood, and the small part is made of metal. It’s quite humble because this is attached to the wood by two screws, so it’s actually hand made, it’s not machine made. And the ‘teeth’ are handmade as well. So what they have done is they have used a hammer to pound it flat, and then manually made the teeth. It’s quite rough. This is a more modern version of the grater; before, what you had was just the piece of metal, now they have added the wood, which makes more sense because what happens with this grater is that you sit on it." 

Words by Mark Bhagwandin.

Mark speaking about the grater

"Talk of being Eco friendly back in a remote village of India!

This spoon is made from the outer shell of a coconut that’s been rubbed till it shines & then it is cut to shape – depending on the size you want. This is more a serving spoon & I use it a lot to serve rice – one scoop makes for one portion.

The serving makes it easier to portion out the average amount. The handle & the binding are also natural materials which are found locally."

Words by Kanta Gopal

FILCOM members in conversation about the many ways of using a coconut

Sandok (in Tagalog), luwag (in Ilonggo)

Artwork by Jong Hernaez

Sandok (in Tagalog), luwag (in Ilonggo)

Jong Hernaez, portrait by Fran Monks

“One of the main things we grow and use in the Philippines is our coconut trees. There’s a season when we remove the trees. Every part of the coconut tree is used, even the leaves and the centre of the leaves. So there's no waste. All the juices are turned to wine or if it’s fresh it’s coconut water. The inside is used for coconut oil, for food. And then the shell is used in many different ways and one of those is kitchen utensils. This ladle is made of coconut and bamboo. In my language (Tagalog) we call it sandok, it’s called Luwag in Ilongo. You have different sizes, there’s a deep one for soup and a flat one for frying. This one is a regular one, you can use it when you’re tasting your food or you can use it as a serving spoon. 

It was made by my father-in-law. He is very creative and resourceful. He’s got a lot of bamboo trees at the back of the house, he dries those and uses them. So the handle is made of bamboo and the bowl is made of coconut. It’s all done by hand. The grandchildren help with the preparation, then he uses a carving knife, and then the grandchildren sand it. So there’s no machine involved, it’s all done by hand. 

You know the wedding tradition when you cut the cake and feed each other a spoonful. On my wedding day, we used my sandok, and you can see how big it is, so it was very difficult!”

Words by Jong Hernaez