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Art-Pacific (Carolyn Leigh - Ron Perry): Guide to Artifacts

BILAS - Traditional Jewelry in Papua New Guinea

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[Man with kina necklace and shell nose plugs: 35k]

Bilas (Pisin from the English word flash): finery, ornaments, jewelry, decoration, showy clothes, bilas bilong singsing - ornaments worn at a dance.

(right) Highland Big Man with kina shell necklace, green beetle and geri geri shell headband, toea shell and bone nose pieces.

Shells are Gold: Miners who came into the Highlands searching for gold discovered people who valued shells more. The gold-lipped pearl shell is cut into crescent shapes called kina. The other traditional shell currency is the toea, a circle of shell cut with bamboo. These are worn singly for nose pieces or strung to make necklaces or bracelets. Many other shells are also used.

Papua New Guinea's main unit of modern currency is also called the kina. 100 toea coins equal one kina. Shell is still used in traditional ceremonial payments. more photos

Tooth and Bone: Dog teeth, fruit bat teeth, crocodile teeth, porpoise teeth, pig's tusks and teeth are all used. During the colonial period, the Germans manufactured porcelain dog teeth and traded them. Strings of dog teeth are part of a family's wealth. Large pigs with tusks that curve back to form complete circles show wealth. The tusks are used for necklaces and nose pieces. Sometimes a deceased relative's or enemy's bones are worn to attract the ghost's spiritual power. more photos

String and Things: Necklaces, headbands and armbands are knotted from handmade string and may include seeds, trade beads, feathers and fur, grasses and ferns, croton leaves, yellow orchid vine, everlasting daisies, links of bamboo and fiber chains. more photos

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Order now: Art Dealer in the Last Unknown, Ron Perry and New Guinea Art, the early years: 1964 - 1973 by Carolyn Leigh and Ron Perry, 320 pages of adventure, over 450 early photographs - join Ron in the jungles of New Guinea on his search for tribal art.


Melanesian art TOC | Map of art areas of Melanesia
Papua New Guinea: Highlands: body art - Bundi tapa - jewelry/dancers | Karawari and Blackwater Rivers: masks - carvings - map | Massim: artifacts- Trobriand Kula - map | Kula canoe | New Britain: Baining - Sulka - Tolai dukduk | New Ireland: Malagan | Ramu River: masks - carvings - map | Sepik River: masks - carvings - villages - map | Papuan Gulf: masks - carvings - map - Gogodala - Kukukuku
other areas: Asmat | Solomon Islands: crafts - jewelry - map
art and craft:
barkcloth (tapa) | body art | cane and fiber figures | canoes and prows | jewelry/dancers | masks - Middle Sepik | phallocrypts | pottery - Chambri | shields | story boards | suspension hooks | weapons | yam masks - fiber | yam masks - wood

Indonesian art TOC | Dyak baby carriers and masks | furniture | Java folk art | Lombok baskets | Lombok lontar boxes | masks from Bali and Java | puppets

China: Bai textiles/art TOC | baby carriers | baby hats | woodblock prints

Collecting New Guinea art in the field since 1964.

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Artifacts on this site were collected in the field by my husband, Ron Perry. I take the photographs, do the html, text and maps. Background in Who We Are. Art-Pacific has been on the WWW since 1996. We hope you enjoy our New Guinea tribal art and Indonesian folk art as much as we do. by Carolyn Leigh is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-ND 4.0