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National Museum of Australia

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Turtle shell carving of a stylised frigate bird


Turtle shell carving of a stylised frigate bird

Object information

Physical description

An ornamental carving of a stylised frigate bird worked in turtle shell. Four, small evenly spaced holes have been drilled across the chest line of the carving.

Statement of significance

This collection consists of 65 traditional Solomon Island artefacts purchased by the vendor between 1972 and 1979. It includes incised carved figures of men, women and boy initiates; canoe house decorations; a large number of different ceremonial Apiras (food bowls); a unique set of carvings depicting aspects of community, ceremonial and village life; some carved and decorated traditional fishing floats and hooks; dance wands; and shell-money bride prices and necklaces.

The collection reflects the particular art and culture of the eastern Solomons Islands of Santa Ana and Santa Catalina in the 1970s. Geoff Dennis, the Solomon Islands Government botanist and honorary curator of the Islands' museum collection, was keen to develop an appreciation and market for the traditional work of the skilled carvers on the islands. This would not only provide some income for the communities whose crops were often destroyed by cyclones, it would keep the skills of the master carvers alive. The importance of the collection lies in the fact that although the items were made for sale under Dennis's guidance, they reflect the traditional motivation for the creation of art in the service of religion and culture. Indeed, much of the work at that time was produced by highly skilled, older master craftsmen.

Object information

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