Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Headdress (Pa'e Kaha)

mid to late 19th century
Marquesas Islands, Nuku Hiva
Marquesan (Enata) people
Shell, turtleshell, fiber
H. 4 x W. 18 3/4 in. (10.2 x 47.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 353
For important occasions, Marquesans wore a variety of headdresses (pa'e). Among the most striking are the pa'e kaha, which consist of a band of woven coconut husk fiber adorned with alternating plaques of carved turtle shell and white shell. Worn primarily by chiefs, warriors, and male dancers, pa'e kaha were owned by families rather than individuals. The turtle-shell plaques were artificially shaped by heating and then bending them into the desired form. They are typically adorned with tiki (human images) and geometric designs in low relief. Early Western illustrations typically show pa'e kaha worn, as here, with the plaques curving downward but it is possible that they were worn with the panels upright, like a crown.
Karl von den Steinen, Germany, from 1897; [Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1951]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1951, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1958–1978

Wardwell, Allen. The Sculpture of Polynesia. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1967, no, 57, p. 51.

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. 4.

Kjellgren, Eric, and Carol S. Ivory. Adorning the World: Art of the Marquesas Islands. New York, New Haven and London: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005, 31, 66-7.

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