Title: Kina Shell
Date: first half 20th century
Culture: Mendi
Cultural Region: Southern Highlands province
Medium: gold-lipped pearl shell, red ochre, fiber, cowrie shells, and clay
15 3/8 x 7 1/2 in. (39 x 19 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. Alan Suits, Coyote's Paw Gallery, St. Louis, MO
Object Number: 8:1994
Place of origin: Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea
Current Location: Not On View
Large gold-lipped pearl shells called kina were used in the western part of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea as exchange valuables and as objects of personal adornment. When used in formal presentations, the kina shells were attached to a halter that was knitted from indigenous fiber. The lustrous golden layer that was so admired by the Highlanders was produced when the hard outer surface of the shell was ground off, exposing the nacreous layer underneath. Before Westerners arrived in the Highlands in 1933, the raw shells had to be traded from the coast over one hundred miles away. They passed through dozens of hands in the process, making the shells rare and very expensive. When used in formal presentations, the kina shells were attached to a halter that was knitted from indigenous fiber.
- 1985
Kendia Pende, Mendi village, Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea

c.1985 - 1990
Handcrafts Marketing, Inc., Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, purchased from Kendia Pende

Coyote's Paw Gallery, St. Louis, MO, USA, purchased from Handcrafts Marketing, Inc.

c.1990 - 1994
Alan Suits, St. Louis, MO, acquired from Coyote's Paw Gallery

1994 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, given by Alan Suits [1]

Information provided by donor [SLAM document files], exceptions as noted:

[1] A letter dated May 25, 1994 from Jackie Lewis-Harris of the Saint Louis Art Museum to Alan Suits acknowledges the gift of this object [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Collections Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, January 19, 1994.
Publication History
Title: Papua New Guinea Arts in Transition
Year Published: 1987
Title: Buyer's Guide to P. N. G. Handcrafts
Author: Alan Miller
Author: Jackie Lewis-Harris
Publisher: Handcrafts Marketing, Inc.
Title: Saint Louis Art Museum: Handbook of the Collection
Editor: Mary Ann Steiner
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
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