Four rare 1950s hand sewn kina shell wallets, Mendi, Southern Highlands.
The crescent shaped Kina shell necklaces used as currency in the Highlands were precious and they were usually worn only on special occasions. Between times, they were carefully wrapped in specially made wallets of pndanus palm bark, often decorated with natural fibre stitched designs and pigments.
The wallets, which were also used for storing precious documents such as employer character references and tax receipts, did not always cover the entire kina shell. They were more of an outer cover for the shell and wallet which were then wrapped in moss and wild banana or cassava leaves to provide added protection.
There are three old examples, well used with signs of ewear, and one newer one, purchased before use and all four were collected at the same time by the Paulian missionaries and sold by their long-closed New Guinea Arts outlet in Sydney.
Descriptions, clockwise from left:
Old pandanus bark wallet with remnant red trade store paint on the front, size 18 x 14 cm / 7 1/2 x 6 1/2 iches.
purchased soon after manufacture and in mint condition. Front features two abstract kina shells back to back, painted with red trade store pigment. Not sure if the materal is pandanus bark or some other material. Size 16 x 14 cm / 6 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches.
An old pandanus bark wallet with twa zigzag design ion th efornt in two colours, and two rectangles on the back. Note loss on one corner. Size 19 x 12 cm / 9 x 5 inches.
An old pandanus leaf wallet decorated with an outlined kina shell.