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Pacific art

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Kaaihwaarya (mourning necklace)

mid 20th century
collected 1969


Unknown Artist


Necklaces made by the Baruya people are among the most intriguing and beautiful forms of 'bilas' (body decoration) across the eastern highlands. Like all highlands societies, body decoration is reflective of a person's status within the community and certain items are given specific significance and meaning.

Particular necklaces were worn by Baruya men and women when mourning a dead relative. Some might include the mummified fingers of the deceased person as a sign of respect. Others, such as the 'kaaihwaarya' included small things belonging to the person. These items were wrapped in barkcloth – in this instance red cotton fabric – and hung in cylinders bound with cane and orchid fibre. The cylinders are also said to contain the scent gland of the cuscus, an animal associated with women's initiation ceremonies and marriage.

[Exhibition text for 'Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands', AGNSW, 2014]


Other Title

Necklace (worn by both men and women)

Cultural origin

Baruya people


mid 20th century
collected 1969

Media category


Materials used

4 pendants of grass stem, split rattan, yellow orchid stem fibre (Dendrobium), red machine wove cotton fabric, 5 yellow plant stem segments, wood pendant, plant fibre string


decoration 17.5 cm length; overall 101.5 cm length; pendants 4.2 to 15.7 cm length :

0 - Whole, 2.3 cm (7/8"), length of longest bamboo segment

0 - Whole, 15.7 cm (6 3/16"), length of longest red fabric pendant

0 - Whole, 4.2 x 2.8 cm, wood pendant

0 - Whole, 101.5 cm (39 15/16"), length of cord


Gift of Stan Moriarty 1977


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 2 publications


Truus Daalder, Ethnic jewellery and adornment: Australia, Oceania, Asia, Africa, Adelaide, 2009, 68, 92 (colour illus.). 128; NOTE: this reproduction is of a similar necklace from the Daalder Collection, Adelaide.

Natalie Wilson (Editor), Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, Sydney, 2014, 109 (colour illus.), 162. 55