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Mendi Bailer Shell Pectoral Gam with Bark Wallet

Mendi Bailer Shell Pectoral Gam with Bark Wallet

Regular price €225,00
Regular price Sale price €225,00
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Mendi people, early to mid. 20th century, Mendi Valley Area, Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. 

Impressive aged Bailer Shell (Melo amphora) pectoral ornament (gam), cut and polished with small holes in sides and were hung around the neck by a fiber rope. Pectoral comes with bark wallet, with finely braided zig-zag decorations and traces of red pigment. Shells in general were highly valuated as traditional wealth in all parts of Papua New Guinea but especially in the Highland region. They had to travel through trading from coast to where they were collected to hundreds of kilometers through highly rugged terrains. Because Highland peoples had no concept of the sea and shells were so hard to acquire, they were considered unusual and precious. Most shell ornaments made in New Guinea were used as an adornment during sacred ceremonies, but also an important type of traditional wealth and currency that was used to pay for bridal dowries, land disputes, or given as a sign of respect during funerals of important clan leaders both men and women.

"Mendi" refers to the people of the Mendi valley. They inhabit a narrow valley area in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. The Mendi were first contacted by the Australian Administration in 1950. In precolonial times, Mendi had no collective name for themselves. They live in dispersed homesteads within clan territories, and their fences separating community footpaths and clearings from garden areas. Each area (su) is associated with an individual clan (or subclan) section, and is socially centered around a clearing (koma) where meetings and collective events are held. The groups are patrilineal and are organized in kinship and descent formation.

Pectoral are in good condition. Age-related wear and signs of use. Chip and fractures. Beautiful patina. Wallet with fraying and chip. Size approx. 14,5cm x 9,8cm & wallet c. 14,3cm x 17,5cm. Sell as a set.

Provenance: Finnish private collection

References and further reading:

Mende Culture and Tradition: a Recent Survey, Theodore Mawe, P.N.G. National Museum Record, no. 10. Boroko, Papua New Guinea: Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies, 1985.

Mendi, Encyclopedia of World Cultures, 

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    The shipment will be prepared in the course of 3-5 days and dispatched via Posti Group Oyj or purchased item(s) can be picked up from our shop during the store's opening hours (Tarkk’ampujankatu 4, 00140, Helsinki, Finland). Within the Finland, all items are shipped via Posti Group Oyj unless otherwise requested. We pack the items carefully and mainly in recycled materials because we want to save nature. You will receive the tracking number for your items by e-mail.

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