- Museum number
Ornament and pubic-cover made from carved and polished pearlshell (Pinctada maxima) and human hair. Polished on the front and back. Incised on the front with figurative designs showing a figure sitting on the ground with head bent down, next to a ball, a pipe and a cooking vessel or billy can. A turtle, a butterfly, a tree branch and a bird are also among the designs. Incisions are filled with red ochre, one hole has been drilled at the top and a twisted human hair cord is attached.
- Production date
- 1920s (before ?)
Height: 17 centimetres
Width: 11.60 centimetres
Depth: 2 centimetres
- Curator's comments
British Museum 1954 register description:
Another [pearlshell pubic ornament] with figures incl. a man, turtle, and a bird (or duck), piece of twisted human hair attached.
For more information on Riji see: Akerman, K. and Stanton, J. 1994. Riji and Jakuli: Kimberley Pearl Shell in Aboriginal Australia. Monograph Series no. 4, Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences.
In the Kimberley, in North Western Australia, large ornaments like this are known as riji or jakuli. The name for these pearlshell ornaments changes depending on the language group and region.
Information from Kim Akerman (2013): This ornament is the work of a prolific artist, often decorating shells with depictions of marine life such as crayfish and other fish. Always used the same technique of broad striping. Kim is currently updating his publication (above).
Sarah Yu examined the pearlshell ornament and suggested that it is Pinctada maxima (26.08.14).
Email from Ian Coates of the National Museum of Australia 12 June 2014 advises that this object derives from the sale of Emile Clement's estate in 1929. This information comes from research on Wellcome Museum Registers in the Wellcome Library. The auction sale was held by Stevens on 22 January 1929 and this item was part of Lot 582 (three pearl shell pendants purchased for 10 shillings). Coates suggests that this item was likely acquired by Clement in the late 1920s from people he knew living around Roebourne, such as William Kruger.
Further email from Ian Cates 15 July 2015 advises this was Wellcome Collection number 46542 (1060) and described as: Pubic, pearl shell, breast [crossed through] ornament, heart-shaped [?] engraved with squatting male figure, with arms folder over the knees and head bent: a duck, an insect, a torotise, and the branch of a tree: upper end pierced for suspension and threaded with a cord made from human hair.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2015 23 Apr-2 Aug, London, BM, G35, Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation
2015-2016 27 Nov-28 Mar, Canberra, National Museum of Australia, Encounters
- Acquisition date
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: 46542 (Wellcome Historical Medical Museum number)