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Collection

Bela, Mendi, Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea

Title
Pair of woven wristbands
Other titles:
Pair of men's armbands
Place of origin
BelaMendiSouthern Highlands ProvincePapua New Guinea
Cultural origin
Mendi people
Year
collected 1963
Media categories
Weaving, Botanical material
Materials used
plaited cane
Dimensions

part a: 11.5 cm length, 7.5 cm diameter:

a - woven wristband; 7.5 cm; diameter at widest point

a - woven wristband; 11.5 cm (4 1/2"); length of wristband at longest point

a - woven wristband; 23.5 cm; outside circumference

Credit
Gift of Stan Moriarty 1977
Accession number
838.1979.a-b
Location
Not on display
Further information

This is a robust band woven in a twilled or herring-bone pattern, worn around the wrist and reaching about half-way up the forearm, somewhat resembling an archer's bow-brace. Only men wear this bracelet, generally in pairs, one on either wrist. Few sport it everyday, reserving it instead to wear on occassions when donning either 'serep yort' second-best or 'yort onda' best finery, which has been the fashion with this wristlet for so long as anyone can recall. The number owned fluctuates, depending primarily on the recency of full-dress occasions; a few years after two large 'sa' events, 36 per cent of the men surveyed owned 51 wristbands. Worn infrequently, at intervals of several months, these wristbands last for years if kept safely and not lost; those documented were c. 5½ years old on average, ranging from 1 month to 6 years. The current price asked for 2 bracelets is 80 toea to 1 kina.

The pattern followed in weaving this wide wristband is identical to that for the woven armband, except that it requires considerably more strands. After splitting and shaving the number of strands required for it, a man ties them in pairs onto a stick, with a single odd strand at one end. He weaves the first 'aend menay' circuit until he has a strip large enough to fit comfortably around wrist and forearm, this bracelet, unlike its tight armband counterpart, being worn loosely around the arm. He joins the piece of weave at the strand-stick by commencing the second 'kobae' circuit, and when completed, weaves the third 'tobahaemay' circuit, following either the 'ndul' or 'baerob' pattern, depending on the direction in which he wishes the herring-bone design to run around the bracelet. He completes the wristband by trimming off and tucking in the loose ends. It is then ready for wear and easily slipped on.

It takes between 10 and 12½ hours to make 1 pair of woven wristbands, using stone or steel tools. Only men weave these bands. Again only some individuals, those able to weave armbands, have the skill and knowledge.

[from Paul Sillitoe, 'Made in Niugini: technology in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea', British Museum Publications, London, 1988, pg. 426]

The woven wristband described above was documented by Paul Sillitoe during fieldwork undertaken in the Wola region of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea between 1973 and 1984. The Wola region is west of the Mendi region, where this pair of wristbands were collected at Bela Village by Stan Moriarty in 1963.