Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1795 Hawaiian ali'i
Subjectali'i chief
Culture: Hawaiian
Setting: unification of Hawaii, 1795-1810
Objectlei niho palaoa necklace

* Brooklyn Museum > Art of the Pacific Islands
"Necklace (Lei Niho Palaoa)  
Hawai'i, early 19th century  Human hair, ivory, and fiber ...
The lei niho palaoa, made of braided human hair and the ivory teeth of beached whales, was an important symbol worn by the Hawai'ian nobility to indicate their genealogical descent from the gods.  After the conversion of most Hawai'ians to Christianity in the mid-nineteenth century, such necklaces continued to indicate social status but lost much of their previous spiritual symbolism.
"This necklace is one of many Polynesian objects picked up by early travelers possessing little or no understanding of the items' original context or function.  An unknown collector incorrectly identified the object as a 'Sorcerer's Necklace from Tahiti,' and this misidentification has become part of its history."

* American Museum of Natural History > Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples

* American Museum of Natural History > Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples

* Metropolitan Museum of Art > Oceania
"Necklace (Lei Niho Palaoa)  
Hawai'i, early to mid-19th century  Walrus ivory, human hair, fiber ...
The hook-shaped pendants known as lei niho palaoa were worn by Hawaiian chiefs as marks of their noble birth and status.  An element of formal regalia for both sexes, the necklaces were worn on important occasions and also, reportedly by men in battle.  The interpretation of the distinctive hook-shape remains uncertain.  It may represent a stylized tongue, or alternatively, the crescent-shaped form may metaphorically allude to the role of the necklace as a vessel for supernatural power (mana).
"The pendants typically formed the centerpiece of necklaces made of a single continuous length of finely braided human hair, up to 1,700 feet long, gathered into two large coils.  Derived from the head, the most supernaturally powerful part of the body, hair was a sacred substance whose presence enhanced the mana of the necklace and its noble wearer."

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* Pacific Artisan
event photos