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OCEANIC ART FROM THE ESTATE OF LYNDA CUNNINGHAM

Feather Currency, Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Islands
Estimate
6,0009,000
LOT SOLD. 11,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT
38

OCEANIC ART FROM THE ESTATE OF LYNDA CUNNINGHAM

Feather Currency, Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Islands
Estimate
6,0009,000
LOT SOLD. 11,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

|
New York

Feather Currency, Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Islands

Provenance

Lynda Cunningham, New York

Catalogue Note

Unique to the Santa Cruz archipelago in the Solomon Islands, this coiled currency, known as tevau, gets its vibrant red hue from the feathers of cardinal honeyeaters (Myzomela cardinalis). Often stretching thirty feet or more in length, tevau featured prominently in wedding ceremonies as ceremonial dowry payments from the groom to the bride’s family. More quotidian uses have also been recorded, especially for large purchases such as pigs and canoes. Feather money was also treasured for the pride and satisfaction which possession of it gave to its owners. Prestige was accumulated by spending feather money to hold feasts, or to help kinsmen obtain brides, and 'prestige won in these ways [was] the source of political power and authority.' (Davenport, 'Red Feather Money', Scientific American, 1962, vol. 206, no. 3, p. 85).

The production of tevau was painstaking and handled solely by a small and exclusive group of craftsmen, whose skills, believed to be spiritually inspired, were hereditary. Each coil of tevau required upwards of sixty thousand feathers, obtained from approximately 300 birds. After the first tevau making specialist has captured the honeyeaters and plucked their feathers a second man glues the feathers to grey pigeon feathers using sap. Finally, a third specialist binds the strips of feathers today to a belt-like fiber strip and wounds the monumental work into its distinctive coiled shape.

Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

|
New York