Kapkap, 20th century

Unknown artist, expand_more

Kapkap were worn as pendants, and forehead or belt ornaments by men in the Solomon Islands. Worn in battle and at festivals, these ornaments symbolized personal wealth and status. The size and quality of a man's kapkap generally indicated his social status-the bigger the size, the more valuable it was. The white disk is ground from the shell of the Tridacna, a large sea clam, which was also used for money. The brown inner disk was carved from boiled tortoiseshell and attached to the other half of the ornament by a beaded string. The addition of beads further increased its value and prestige. Kapkap from the Solomon Islands were traded throughout Melanesia, and are still highly valued today for their beauty and use as exchange goods. The openwork design on the largest kapkap represents a frigate bird, a popular symbol of strength. The design on the twentieth century kapkap may be purely decorative or may relate to the mataling, "eye of fire," found on other sculptures from the region.

Details
Title
Kapkap
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2003.35
Curator Approved

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