The Kwara‘ae and other peoples of Malaita island in Solomon Islands once dressed for special occasions in ornaments of glistening white shell and pearl shell, intricately carved turtle shell, strings and straps of shell money-beads, and combs and bands patterned with colorful plant fibers. Today these ornaments are easier to find in museums around the world than in Malaita, but the recollections of Kwara‘ae elders help us to understand how and why they were once made and worn. With contributions from the neighboring Kwaio people who still make such things and examples from other parts of the island in museum and private collections, this book provides the first comprehensive account of Malaitan decorative and body arts.
The book reviews the significance of body ornaments in Kwara‘ae society, and the history of their rejection under the changing circumstances of colonial rule and Christian conversion, illustrated by historical photographs. It describes the materials, techniques, and relationships by which ornaments were produced and exchanged, and then catalogs the great variety of ornaments worn throughout Malaita, fully illustrated in detailed drawings. A vanishing tradition is documented here for the interest of Solomon Islanders as well as all those who appreciate Pacific Islanders’ arts.
For sale only in the U.S., its dependencies, Canada, and Mexico
"An excellent study of material culture in the Pacific. The details on Malaitan shell wealth are the best I have seen. . . . Lavishly produced and beautifully illustrated." —Journal of Pacific History (45:1, 2010)
Author: Burt, Ben;Ben Burt
is curator in the Oceania section at the British Museum and teaches world arts at Birkbeck College, University of London. He and his collaborator on this book, David Akin, have been researching Malaitan culture and history since 1979, with the support of Michael Kwa‘ioloa, Burt’s research partner, and the chiefs of Kwara‘ae and Kwaio.