Papua New Guinea Siripiya / Fofona ornament.
These are made by the Bena Bena people of the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. They are woven by women and given to young men after their initiation and are worn on the chest or sometimes on the back and even occasionally held in the teeth. They are worn in traditional dances and historically in battle. They are also worn in Marriage ceremonies where they serve as part of a “bride price”.
These were valuable items for the Bene Bene people as the white cowries were a valuable currency which had been traded from the coast via the barter system between a number of tribal groups before finally arriving at the Highlands.
This item is made of plaited string painted on the front with natural pigments and fringed with nassa shells. The two large cowries are attached to either end of a piece of what looks like bamboo on which the fofona hangs. The “strap” from which the ornament is hung around the neck has broken over the years and has been repaired using more recent string. As this repair is plaited in the same way as the rest of the strap this seems to have been repaired in the village.
This Fofona measures 26cm high by 32cm across (excluding the strap). There are obvious stains on the back of the fofona and on the strap which are consistent with this having had considerable wear. This item obviously has considerable age and probably dates from the first half of the 20th Century.
This is a lovely, old and authentic item that makes an unusual and decorative addition to a collection.