Woven & Shell Ornament Sepik River Papua New Guinea
This beautiful old and used Shell and Woven Pectoral is from the Avatip Village in the Upper Sepik River area in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. In the form of an ancestors face woven from bush fibre string made from tree bark and then highly decorated with Nassa Shells and Cowrie Shells.
Personal Ornaments in New Guinea and the Pacific Islands are some of the most beautiful objects made by the indigenous people of the Pacific Islands. Ornaments made from shells or animal teeth are not only decorations to wear but they are part of the traditional wealth and currency used by native people. They are used to pay for bridal dowries by a young mans family or as compensation for different types of disputes like over land for gardens or used in traditional ceremonies where giving wealth to others creates future obligations or debts.
In 1985- 1986 I made several trips to Papua New Guinea and at that time personal ornaments seemed to be readily available but when I went back in 1990-1991 all these types of shell ornaments seemed much harder to find. People said “our grandparents are gone and no one is making these any longer”
Attached are a few of my field photos showing people wearing their traditional wealth ornaments.
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