Production date
Pre 1990
Papua New Guinea
East Sepik
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Object detail

Belt, with woven and plaited plant fibre backing, three horizontal rows of cowrie shells sewn to surface, and three small flaps on lower edge, each decorated with three vertical rows of cowrie shells. Shells attached to plant fiber with orange synthetic twine.
CH classification INDIGENOUS CULTURES Melanesian & South Sea Islander belt
CH classification INDIGENOUS CULTURES Melanesian & South Sea Islander waist ornament
Production date
Pre 1990
L 970 x W 105 mm
History and use
Jewellery and pieces of personal adornment, such as this belt, symbolise the wearer’s wealth or status.

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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