Solomon Islands Pectoral – Santa Cruz Group

The Solomon Islands, located in the southwest Pacific between New Britain and Vanuatu, is remarkable for the richness of its traditional decorative arts, which served to adorn the human body and embellish ceremonial and utilitarian objects. Artists in the island chain produced ornate jewelry and personal ornaments fashioned from shell, porpoise teeth, turtle shell, and other materials.

Chest ornaments (tema) are one of the most iconic forms in the Solomon Islands traditions. Worn by men of high status in the Santa Cruz Group, the tema is the central and most important element of the ceremonial costume and its size and quality are indicative of the owner’s wealth and social importance. The precise meaning of their iconography is no longer recorded, but it is hypothesized that the tema’s form represents the silhouette of a frigate bird against the full moon or the sun.

Early 20th century
Clam shell, turtle shell, fiber
6.5” h  6.5” w
Provenance: Private US collection
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