The Kwara'ae and other peoples of Malaita island in Solomon Islands once dressed for special occasions in ornaments of glistening white shell and pearl shell, intricately carved turtle shell, strings and straps of shell money-beads and combs and bands patterned with colourful plant fibres.
Today these ornaments are easier to find in museums around the world than in Malaita, but the recollections of Kwara'ae elders help us to understand how and why they were once made and worn.
With contributions from the neighbouring Kwaio people who still make such things and examples from other parts of the island in museum and private collections, this book provides the first comprehensive account of Malaitan decorative and body arts.
The book reviews the significance of body ornaments in Kwara'ae society, and the history of their rejection under the changing circumstances of colonial rule and Christian conversion, illustrated by historical photographs.
It describes the materials, techniques and relationships by which ornaments were produced and exchanged, and then catalogues the great variety of ornaments worn throughout Malaita, fully illustrated in detailed drawings. A vanishing tradition is documented here for the interest of Solomon Islanders as well as all those who appreciate Pacific Islands' arts.