Description & Technical information

A superb and large bokolo or chiefly wealth item ornamented with four figures: the two external figures are avian, and the two central ones are anthropomorphic.

The bokolo, which are a distinct form of barava, are sacred items associated with the chief; they were often attached to the rafters and walls of the chiefly burial houses. Making a bokolo is extremely difficult as the shell is amongst the hardest of natural materials. Freshly fished shells were not used – only those that were dug up from the ground, and by consequence of great age and size, were considered to be usable. The shell was broken up and trimmed to the right general dimensions by burying the wanted in wet sand and heating the exposed part with fire – then dousing it with cold water and breaking off the unwanted piece. The fine intricate open-work was made by first drilling a hole and then using a fine strip of bamboo, water, and fine abrasive sand to saw out the desired areas. Grinding and polishing was done with stones, other pieces of shell, leaves, abrasive sands, and shark-skin. 

Date:  19th century or earlier
Period:  1750-1850, 19th century
Origin:  Solomon Islands, Melanesia
Medium: Giant clam shell (tridacna giga)
Dimensions: 13.2 x 10.6 cm (5¹/₄ x 4¹/₈ inches)
Provenance: Ex coll. : Todd Barlin, Sydney.
Literature: See another example in Meyer, Anthony JP: OCEANIC ART / OZEANISCHE KUNST / ART OCEANIEN. Könemann Verlag, Köln. 1995, fig. 424, p. 384/5, vol. II.
Categories: Tribal Art