Objects fashioned from the hard marble-like shell of the giant clam are prized by many Melanesian peoples. The art of working giant-clam shell reached its apogee in the Solomon Islands. The most complex clam shell objects were barava, ornate openwork plaques created in the western Solomon Islands. The designs on some barava are geometric, but many include stylized human figures interspersed with forms that resemble faces, shown with spiral eyes and grinning mouths filled with minute teeth. Barava appear to have been associated with burial places and were reportedly used to adorn structures housing the skulls of prominent men or slain enemies or placed on graves. In the past, some barava formed part of vovoso, powerful charms carried in war canoes during headhunting expeditions to protect the crew and ensure success.
[John J. Klejman, New York, until 1955]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1955, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1956–1978
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. 64.
Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 247 top.
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, 102, 173.