Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Ivory Ear Ornaments (Hakakai)

early 19th century
Marquesas Islands
Marquesan (Enata) people
Whale ivory
W. 2 1/4 x D. 1 5/8 x H. 2 3/4 in. (5.7 x 4.1 x 7 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
1979.206.1639a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 353
In the Marquesas Islands, ivory ear ornaments (hakakai)
made from whale teeth were worn by both men and
women. Larger hakakai such as the pair seen here were
worn by men. The ornaments consist of a large disk
worn in front of the ear and a curved spur that, inserted
through a large hole in the earlobe, projected behind the
ear. The spurs were frequently adorned, as here, with
small tiki (human images).
It is probable that larger hakakai, such as the ones
seen here, developed in the early 1800’s when western
vessels brought great quantities of whale teeth to the
islands as trade items.
[Allan Frumkin Gallery, New York, until 1962]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1962, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1962–1978

Wardwell, Allen. The Sculpture of Polynesia. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1967, no. 48, p. 49.

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. 6.

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, no. 40, pp. 74–75.

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