Head ornament

Production date
Pre 1990
Papua New Guinea
East Sepik
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Object detail

Head-ornament with woven and plaited plant fibre backing, central facial design, cowrie shell eyes and pig tusk's. Three subsidiary facial rosettes surrounded by rings of cowrie shells are woven to backing. Backing painted in red and white alternate vertical rows.
INDIGENOUS CULTURES Melanesian & South Sea Islander head ornament
Production date
Pre 1990
L 580 x W 292 x D 55 mm
History and use
Jewellery and pieces of personal adornment, such as this head ornament, are worn to symbolise the wearer’s wealth and status. This head ornament is adorned with shell, tusks and coloured pigments and depicts four faces within the weaving.

Body decoration, or bilas, is a significant social and cultural practice in Papua New Guinea. Bilas can take many forms: headdresses, body painting, the wearing of wigs, or wearing ornaments such as necklaces and body adornments. Bilas can display unity within a group, is used to celebrate significant events such as births, deaths, marriages and battles, and extends respect to ancestral spirits. Used in song and dance, these ornaments are worn to demonstrate their group’s status, health, fertility, wealth and strength.

This object was collected by donor Peter Watt in 1990 and donated to the Museum of Tropical Queensland in 2012.
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