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Mendi Shell Currency Necklace

Mendi Shell Currency Necklace

Regular price €385,00
Regular price Sale price €385,00
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Mendi people, late 19th or early 20th century, Mendi Valley Area, Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. 

Charming aged necklace with three cut and finely polished Conus shells. 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.

Delicate necklace are in good condition. Shells are smoothed from wearing and handling over many years and generations. Age-related wear and chip. Length c. 60,0cm and shells approx. 5,3cm x 5,4cm x 3,2cm. 

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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