Wednesday, 15 March 2017 7:34 AM
Feather Money From Solomon Islands Top Tribal Antiquities Sale
The Tribal Art and Antiquities sale at Woolley and Wallis Salisbury Salerooms in the UK on 1st March included six different collections, attracting bidders from around the world.
Pre-sale viewing was very busy with many buyers travelling from the continent and staying for the sale, proving to be most advantageous in keeping the prices buoyant, with a sale total of over half a million pounds and 91 per cent of the lots sold.
From Egyptian, Roman, pre-Columbian, African, American and Oceanic, the collection reflected collectors continuous search for the curious, magnificent and a presence that only the discerning eyes could capture.
The sale included a strong Oceanic section with a good array of clubs, shields and everyday artefacts.
A rare Samoan/Tongan pole club sold for £9,100, an unusual club from Vanuatu sold for £3,540 and a superb Austral Islands paddle with all-over carving and with eight dancing girls to the top sold for £9,500.
An Aboriginal shield of slim form used for parrying and decorated with wavy lines, representing the landscape known to the owner, sold to an Australian collector for £7,330.
The highlight though was a stunning feather currency roll from Santa Cruz, Solomon Islands, illustrated on the cover of the catalogue, with two determined telephone bidders battling to a magnificent price of £22,750 or SBD$212,000. The use of feather money survived on the Santa Cruz Islands, a group of islands in the Solomon Islands, into the post–World War II era.
The red feathers of this money came either from the parrot Trichoglossus massena, or from a red-scarlet honey-eater named Mzomela cardinalis. The feathers were integrated into striplike coils of fiber extending 15 feet in length and 2 to 3 feet in width. The outer side of these coils was blanketed with overlapping rows of red feathers.
The feather money owed its high monetary value to the labor-intensive effort required to produce it. Capturing the birds was no small task, and each bird furnished only a few of the feathers suitable for the purpose of making a coil.
Each coil was made by hand, further adding to the labor invested in each unit of money. The attachment of wooden emblems and charms partially accounted for the value of each feather coil. The production of a coil of feather money took 500 to 600 man-hours.