Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Headdress (Uhikana)

late 19th century
Marquesas Islands
Marquesan (Enata) people
Pearl shell, turtle shell, fiber
W. 6 x D. 18 in. (15.2 x 45.7 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1964
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 353
The headdresses known as uhikana were among the most important forms of ceremonial regalia for chiefs in the southern Marquesas Islands. Worn on the forehead, uhikana consist of a fiber headband adorned with a central disk of pearl shell overlain with an openwork turtle-shell plaque. The designs on the present plaque are of the type known as the tiki star, in which the faces of six tiki (human images) radiate from a central disk. The original meaning of this motif is uncertain. However, some contemporary Marquesans state that the six faces symbolize the six inhabited islands of the Marquesan archipelago. The tiki star is also one of several Marquesan designs that appear in the art of the archipelago’s most famous expatriate resident, the French Post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin.
[Henri Kamer, Paris and New York, until 1964]; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1964–1978

Handy, E.S. Craighill. "The Native Culture in the Marquesas." Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin vol. 9 (1923), p. 237, 241.

Steinen, Karl von den, ed. Die Marquesaner und Ihre Kunst: Studien über die Entwicklung primitiver Südseeornamentik nach eigenen Reiseergebnissen und dem Material der Museen. Vol. vol. 2. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1928, pp. 167–72.

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. 8.

Kaeppler, Adrienne L. Artificial Curiosities: Being an Exposition of Native Manufactures Collected on the Three Pacific Voyages of Captain James Cook on the Occasion of the European Discovery of the Hawaiian Islands by Captain Cook. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication, Vol. vol. 65. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1978, p. 165, fig. 307.

Varnedoe, Kirk. "Gauguin." In 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern, edited by William Rubin. New York: Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1984, p. 192-193.

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, 28, 65-6.

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, 185, 306-7.

Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 160–62.

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