KapKap

Jewelled 

This delightful exhibition (shown at Te Papa from 3 November 2001 to 17 March 2002) is the outcome of a Te Papa research programme on material culture and creativity in the contemporary Pacific. Because of its popularity, Te Papa has made a version of this exhibition available for tour to other museums and art galleries in New Zealand.

Jewelled is a journey through the richness and diversity of Pacific adornment - from Papua New Guinea to the Marquesas Islands, from Hawai`i to New Zealand, from traditions of craft thousands of years old to designs of the twenty-first century.

The precious materials of the Pacific come mostly from living things rather than metals or gems. Plants and animals are the sources of shell, feathers, wood, fibres, bone, and ivory. Pacific people have been making adornments from these materials for several thousand years.

The exhibition contains adornments for heads, necks, waists, hips, arms, wrists, knees, and ankles as well as ear and nose ornaments. The latter are found throughout the Pacific - piercing has been a Pacific practice for centuries. Men, women, and children all wear jewellery, but in the past it was usually men who dressed up in special finery, including elaborate headdresses, on ceremonial occasions.

However, Pacific jewellery is much more than simple adornment. It can show the status of the wearer. Some ornaments can be worn only by an important person, others can be worn by anyone, including children. Jewellery can also serve as currency of known value. It cements bonds between family members or communities. Much of its value lies in its association with those who made it and those who have cared for it. Adornments are cherished as heirlooms; sometimes they are buried with the dead.