Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
Bracelet (kupe'e ho'okalakala)
Probably 18th or 19th century AD
Bracelets from Hawaii are typically made from strings of sea shells, or thin plates of turtle-shell, bone or ivory. This example, of the type known in Hawaiian as kupe'e ho'okalakala, consists of several boars' tusks, each pierced twice and threaded together with cord made of olona (Touchardia latifolia) fibre. It is similar to examples collected on Captain Cook's voyages. Some bracelets made in the same way have the tips cut off, or both ends of the tusk trimmed. Such bracelets were worn by male hula dancers, along with ornaments covering the lower leg decorated with dog teeth, seeds or shells.
The pig has a significant role in Polynesian society. It is a major source of food. In pre-Christian times Hawaiians were obliged to supply pigs for offerings in religious ceremonies. The public performance of the hula, a sacred dance which honoured their gods, was preceded by a consecration of the performers and the ceremonial sacrifice of a pig. The figure of the war god Ku-ka'ili-moku, also in The British Museum, features stylized pig heads worked into the figure's hair.
P.H. Buck, Arts and crafts of Hawaii (Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press, 1957)