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Kende Kusa

Kende Kusa Kina shell necklace 1980s

Kende Kusa | Kina shell necklace 1980s | Kina shell, woven natural fibres and dyes 36cm (long); pendant 18 x 18 x 2.5cm | Purchased 2008. the Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisition Fund | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Kina shell necklace 1980s

This chest ornament is probably from the Mendi area in the Southern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea (PNG). In the past, kina pearlshells were traded from the coast (often exchanged with feathers from the Highlands), and were used as currency in most of PNG. Their value was degraded by the influx of shells brought in by the Europeans in the 1930s, and by the 1980s they ceased to be a common form of currency. However, the name 'kina' was retained, and now refers to the national currency.

The entire ornament has been rubbed with red ochre, with the fine and intricate weaving sharply contrasting the smooth and irridescent quality of the gold lipped mother of pearl shell. The tearing where the natural fibres meet the shell indicates the weight of the kina, and suggests that it may have been worn often. The crescent-shaped shell is commonly used in other Melanesian cultures, such as those from the Solomon and Torres Strait Islands, with varying decorations and incisions. This adornment is part of a focused and growing collection of chest ornaments from the Pacific, including works from contemporary artists such as Sofia Tekela-Smith.