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 ochre used in creating this beautiful and distinctive riji or jakoli would have been sourced from wherever the maker lived.
The markings on the shell represent the level of initiation attained. The pearl shell could be worn as a pubic covering with a longer belt or as is the case with this ornament, as a necklace.
Body adornment was traditionally an important part of indigenous society. However many forms appear to have been discarded soon after contact with white settlers. The ornament has significant cultural and spiritual value which could change according to the region, gender, status and age of the wearer. Consistent meaning though is associated with the shimmery surface of the shell 'which reflects the physical and spiritual well being flowing from the Ancestral creation period'. In a ritual context the ornament could be worn to symbolise strength and good health as well as influence the onset of rain.
Akerman, K. with Stanton J., Riji and Jakoli: Kimberley pearl shell in Aboriginal Australia, Monograph series 4, Northern Territory museum of Arts and Sciences, Darwin, 1994, P.xi
Davies, Susan. Collected: 150 years of Aboriginal art and artifacts at the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney, 2002, pp. 54-55, 68-70