Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Pendant or Head Ornament (Kapkap)

late 19th–early 20th century
Papua New Guinea, Admiralty Islands
Matankol (?)
Tridacna shell, turtle shell, fiber, glass bead
Diam. 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Klejman, 1960
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
One of the most widespread forms of Melanesian jewelry is the kapkap, a disk-shaped ornament typically fashioned from the shell of the giant clam and overlain with a delicate filigree of turtle shell. Kapkap occur, or occurred, across much of the southwest Pacific, from coastal New Guinea eastward to the Santa Cruz Islands. Admiralty Islands artist were among the most prolific kapkap makers. Worn as head ornaments or pendants, kapkap in the Admiralties were primarily male ornaments, although women wore smaller examples in some areas. Most have geometric designs, although some forms incorporate figurative images. Some design elements may have had symbolic meaning, but it is conceivable that many were purely decorative.
Harry G. Beasley, Cranmore Museum, Chiselhurst, U.K.; [John J. Klejman, New York, until 1960]; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1960–1978

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 72.

Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, 67, 111-2.

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