The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences acknowledges Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and gives respect to the Elders – past and present – and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that the MAAS website contains a range of Indigenous Cultural Material. This includes artworks, artifacts, images and recordings of people who may have passed away, and other objects which may be culturally sensitive.
2012/131/1 Pearl shell ornament (riji or jakoli), engraved, pearl shell / human hair / feathers / plant string / ochre, maker unknown, Kimberley region, Western Australia, 1900-1924. Click to enlarge.

Pearl shell ornament from Western Australia

Made in Kimberley, Western Australia, Australia, 1900-1920.

Rarely seen outside of Museums, this striking riji or jakoli is made from a large engraved pearl shell and human hair. It is an important form of body adornment traditionally worn in the Kimberley region of Western Australia by men and in certain instances by women and children. Featuring the most common design element, the interlocking key motif dates the pearl shell from 1900 to 1924 as does the visible abductor scar. The traditional materials including shell, feathers, human hair and red ochr...

Summary

Object No.

2012/131/1

Object Statement

Pearl shell ornament (riji or jakoli), engraved, pearl shell / human hair / feathers / plant string / ochre, maker unknown, Kimberley region, Western Australia, 1900-1924

Physical Description

A large mother of pearl shell featuring an engraved interlocking key design highlighted in red natural earth pigment (ochre) suspended from a double strand of twisted human hair. The hair string has a circumference of 860mm and is joined with two tassels made from feathers that are bound with twisted plant string and adorn the shell at the small hand-bored hole where the cord is attached. The cord and feathers have also been rubbed with red ochre. The abductor scar is visible in the centre of the ornament.

Dimensions

Width

153 mm

Depth

24 mm

Production

Notes

Featuring an interlocking key design, this engraved pearl shell known as riji or jakoli was made in the early 1900s in the Kimberley region of Western Australia by an unknown indigenous maker. Prior to 1920, the most common patterns applied to pearl shell included abstract designs such as zigzags, meanders and mazes with the interlocking key design the most common. From the mid-1920s European themes and more realistic imagery started to appear more frequently on pearl shells.

Early pearl shell ornaments pre-dating the 1900s have the abductor scar removed by careful rubbing. The abductor scar is visible on this riji / jakoli. The markings on the shell represent the level of initiation attained. Women and children also wore pearl shells in certain circumstances.

Davies, Susan. Collected: 150 years of Aboriginal art and artifacts at the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney, 2002, pp. 54-55, 68-70

History

Notes

This riji or jakoli was offered at a Sotheby's auction of important Aboriginal and Oceanic art held in Sydney 15 October 2012, and was subsequently purchased by the Museum. A private collector, Lyle Gamertsfelder originally acquired the shell ornament in Alice Springs in the 1950s. It was customary in the 1950s-1960s for indigenous Australians to journey to the Northern Territory from Western Australia to attend ceremonial dances known as corroborees. According to tradition, the aborigines would leave a gift before returning to their native lands. The collector obtained the ornament at this time.

Source

Credit Line

Purchased 2012

Acquisition Date

6 November 2012

Cite this Object

Harvard

Pearl shell ornament from Western Australia 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 6 April 2020, <https://ma.as/459050>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/459050 |title=Pearl shell ornament from Western Australia |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=6 April 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Know more about this object?

TELL US

Have a question about this object?

ASK US