Cowrie shell ornament. Open at top for vase to be placed inside. Base of folded rolls of threaded shells
INDIGENOUS CULTURES Melanesian & South Sea Islander ornament
DOMESTIC EQUIPMENT Containers vase
H. 250mm, base diameter 260mm, top diameter 140mm
Cowrie shells, fishing line
History and use
This object is from the Helen Barrett collection, which was donated to Queensland Museum in 2014. Miss Helen Barrett worked as a nurse with the Australian Board of Mission in Solomon Islands from 1947 until 1984. Barrett was based at Tasia in Isabel Province, and Maravovo on Guadalcanal before being stationed at the Hospital of the Epiphany at Fauabu, Malaita from 1968 until 1984. In the 1990s, Barrett worked with the Mothers Union in the Torres Strait Islands. Her collection largely comprises of objects that were presented as gifts over the course of her missionary work in Melanesia.
This vase cover is made from many cowrie shells threaded together. Such decorative pieces were once popular homewares throughout the Pacific. This example was presented as a gift to the nursing sisters at Fauabu Hospital on Malaita.