- Museum number
Ornament and pubic cover made from carved and polished pearlshell (Pinctada maxima). Polished on the front and partially on the back. Incised decoration depicting two figures, both wearing pearshell ornaments (riji). They are performing an open dance known as ilma; also carrying an elaborate thread cross-dance decoration (also called ilma). Black pigment (perhaps charcoal) fills the incisions. One hole has been drilled for suspension, no cord remains.
- Production date
- 1920s (before ?)
Length: 15.60 centimetres
Thickness: 0.50 centimetres
Width: 12 centimetres
- Curator's comments
British Museum 1954 register description:
Another [pearlshell pubic ornament], with two figures shown wearing pubic ornaments.
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): ) '...The design on this pearlshell is an image of an open dance (called ilma) and the performers are carrying an elaborate thread cross dance decoration (also called ilma) The shells that the dancers wore are riji - engraved shells decorated with the northern Dampierland bilaterally symetrical design. The term ramu = engraving, mark, etc in much the same way as walka is used in the western desert.'
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 539 (a number of pearl shells). 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. Wellcome Collection Number 46539.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2011-2012, 6 Oct-19 Feb, London, The British Museum, 'Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman'
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: 46539 (Wellcome collection number)