Description of item:
Choiseul Island from the Solomon Islands, giant clamshell (Tridacna gigas), displays geometrical design; good quality display; late 19th century.
Length: 5.5 cm (2 inches)
Width: 8 cm (3 inches)
The most complex clamshell objects were the barava, ornate openwork plaques created in the western Solomon Islands. They are wealth items and symbols of authority. They are evidence of ownership, in effect a title deed written in clamshell, perhaps because of such importance, barava appear to have been associated with burial places, on or within “skull huts” (small raised structures that housed the skulls of prominent men or head-hunting victims) or placed on graves. In the past, some barava formed part of the vovoso, powerful canoe charms carried in war canoes during headhunting expeditions to protect the crew and ensure success.
Meyer, A.J.P., ‘Oceanic Art. Ozeanishe Kunst. Art Océanien’, (1995: plate 424).
Kjellgren, E. ‘Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’, (2007: 173).
Woodford, C.M. ‘Further Note on Funerary Ornaments from the Solomon Islands’, (1905: 38).
Howarth, C. with Waite, D. ‘Varilaku, Pacific Arts from the Solomon Islands’, (2011: 86).
Private Australian collection.