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Moka Kina Wealth Plaque Western Highlands Papua New Guinea


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Collection No. TB-2436
Size Height 80cm x width 31cm
Moka Kina Wealth Plaque Western Highlands Papua New Guinea
Moka Kina Wealth Plaque Western Highlands Papua New Guinea
Moka Kina Wealth Plaque Western Highlands Papua New Guinea
Moka Kina Wealth Plaque Western Highlands Papua New Guinea
Moka Kina Wealth Plaque Western Highlands Papua New Guinea

This superb Moka Kina Wealth Plaque is from the Melpa People in the Mount Hagen area of the Western Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.

This beautiful old Shell Pectoral Ornament called Moka Kina , the shell is made from the Gold Lip Pearl Shell or Pinctada Maximums and  is covered in red ochre and set into a plaque of hard tree resin and then given a decorated woven band for wearing over chest.

Shells in general were highly valued as traditional wealth by the people in the interior of New Guinea where they had to travel through trading from the coast where they were collected to hundreds of kilometres through some of the most rugged terrain on the planet.  These were used as a traditional currency during a traditional ceremony where Moka Kina and pigs were exchanged

The moka is an exchange system where it is a system of reciprocal exchange in which the donor gives shells and pigs as outright gifts and later is he is obligated to give a larger amount back to the original donor.

The return payment is not made at the same time. Each recipient of shells and or pigs makes a note of the debt he owes so that he can make the appropriate return payment later. The exchange of wealth means friendship, and friendship means alliances. Moka is made between clans, the purpose of which is to cement alliances. Clans will not support clans with which they do not do moka. Therefore moka
is not done indiscriminately. Those doing moka will ensure that the clans they are dealing with will be their allies for
ever. A clan needs a number of other clans it can rely on in times of war for survival. Clan warfare has been and still is endemic throughout the highlands of Papua New Guinea. The moka still has a role to play in the lives of the Melpa as a means of exchanging wealth to maintain social relationships,  After receiving the pearl shells in a moka, the owner may do what he likes with them. He does not have to give them away immediately in exchange, but he must at some time in the future repay his debts with the correct number of pearl shells. Therefore he cannot disburse them indiscriminately. He can use them to pay bride wealth, to buy pigs or buy land with.

Provenance: The Gabriela Roy Collection.

Exhibited and Published :  Adorned: Traditional Body Decorations from Australia & the Pacific 1999 at The Macleay Museum at The University of Sydney Page 29

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