Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Money Coil (Tevau)

late 19th–early 20th century
Solomon Islands, Santa Cruz Islands, Temotu Province
Santa Cruz Islands
Feathers, fiber, bark, seeds, shell, glass beads, leaves
L. (uncoiled) 321 x W. 2 1/2 in. (815 x 6.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Anonymous Gift, 2010
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
The tevau, or money coil, of the Santa Cruz Islands is one of the most beautiful forms of currency in Oceania. Generally around thirty feet (9.2 meters) in length, tevau consist of up to sixty thousand red feathers of the scarlet honey-eater; the feathers are affixed to a series of overlapping plates attached to a long belt-like coil of fiber. Tevau serve as ceremonial currency particularly at marriages, where they are presented by the groom in payment for his bride. They also are used to purchase valuable commodities such as canoes, pigs, and various forms of labor. Used throughout most of the Santa Cruz archipelago, tevau were made exclusively on Ndende Island by hereditary specialists, whose skills were believed to come from spirits. When not in use, the coils were provided with both physical and supernatural protection. Powerful charms often were placed together with the tevau to guard it from harm, and the coil was wrapped in palm leaves and bark cloth.
(Bonhams Knightsbridge, London, December 1, 1993, no. 90); Private collection, New York, 1993–2010

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