The 'kompuna' was worn across the hips and thigh and around the groin. When Australian gold prospectors first made contact with eastern highlanders in the 1930s, men across the region typically wore girdles such as these. Their form and decoration differed from group to group.
At the front of the 'kompuna' a small piece of wood is suspended, cut into the shape of what might be a butterfly with outstretched wings – as described by Michael Leahy in 1930 – or possibly a bat, which protects the groin. A long length of barkcloth with geometric patterns beaten into the surface hangs from the back, while a shorter strip is suspended from the wooden pubic cover. The entire girdle is festooned with scores of cowrie shells, once a valuable trade item across the highlands.
This 'kompuna' was made by Orgiri Tabzono of the Abaninofi Clan and was purchased by Stan Moriarty during his last journey to the highlands in 1972.
[Exhibition text for 'Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands', AGNSW, 2014]
Place where the work was made
mid 20th century
barkcloth, plant fibre cord, cowrie shells (Cypraeidae), wood, machine-wove fabric, yellow and red pigments
waistband 28.0 cm diameter; rear barkcloth panel 50.0 cm length; wooden panel 10.0 x 18.2 x 7.0 cm
Gift of Stan Moriarty 1977
Not on display
© the artist, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics
Shown in 1 exhibition
Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 May 2014–10 Aug 2014
Referenced in 1 publication
Natalie Wilson (Editor), Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, Sydney, 2014, 128 (illus.), 129 (colour illus.), 162. cat.no. 73