Barava are ornate openwork plaques hand-carved from semi-fossilized giant clam shell. Every tribe and clan in the Western Solomon Islands, in the ancient days, had a barava. It established the tribal identity and the ownership of land. The designs refer to tribal origins and the overall wealth of the tribe (butubutu). The Barava was sacred and was kept in the Tambu house.

The intricate openwork of these reticulate carvings is a lost art. No one alive today has ever seen one being created. The fossilized shell was taken from a quarry high on Mt. Kela (2283 feet) on the remote island of Ranongga. The location of the quarry was known to only a few, as it is today. 

In October 2002, Chief Leziri Betekera of Ombombulu was interviewed by Rhys Richards and Kenneth Roga (see reference below). The chief said that the last barava was made before his grandfather was born and described it as a very tedious task requiring as much time as it takes a coconut to grow from a pod to a fruit-bearing tree.

Production

Semi-fossilized giant clam shells, found high in the hills, were used to create these shapes. Small holes were drilled with a “pisu mongu” – a drill fitted with a bow and operated by hand. The holes are connected by sawing with a “riku”, which is the aerial root of a bush creeper called “asama”, coated with damp sand. Sharkskin strops were used to smooth the rough edges (a shark’s skin is covered with “dermal denticles”, plates that are shaped just like the shark’s teeth). 

Reference – Abstract titled Barava: Land Title Deeds in Fossil Shell from the Western Solomon Islands by Rhys Richards and Kenneth Roga – Cultural Affairs Officer in Gizo, Solomon Islands

Publication – Tuhinga: Records of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa

Issue 15  2004

Personally collected aboard Yacht Firebird Voyage

Acquired from the National Museum of Solomon Islands.

For more information please email us.

The main feature of this kapkap, also called a tema, is the image of a frigate bird. Above the bird are six stylized double-ended fish. Frigate birds are symbols of power. They are the banditsof the sky, harassing other birds to drop their prey, then swooping underneath to catch it.

Kapkap were worn as masculine ornaments, either as pendants or as forehead ornaments. The size and quality of a man's kapkap indicated his social status. This kapkap is typical of one worn by a high chief.

Barava - 8.5" X 4.5"H x .5"D

Height on museum stand 10"H

SKU - 167

At the top is a symbol representing the hornbill bird. In the middle is a "Zaru" - two stylized human figures sitting back to back, with two human figures between them. The circle at the bottom indicating the general wealth inherent in the tribe.

Barava - 10.75"H X 6.25"W x .75"D

Height on museum stand - 11.5"H

Base 7" x 7"

SKU - 163

This piece shows a large human figure in the center with distended earlobes, over a smaller human figure. They are surrounded by a "Zaru" - two figures sitting back to back. The circle at the bottom represents the general wealth inherent in the tribe.

Barava - 13.5"H x 4.5"W x 1"D

Custom Made Koa Shadow Box - 17.5"H x 11.5"W 3"D

SKU - 166

This piece has a large ring at the bottom, indicating the general wealth inherent in the tribe. The middle portion shows 11 steps, possibly representing past generations. The top shows a "Zaru" - two stylized human figures sitting back to back. 

Barava - 10.5"H X 3.25"W x 1"D

Height on museum stand 11"H

Base 4" x 4"

SKU - 160

At the very top there is a Hornbill carving symbolizing understanding and wisdom. At the bottom is a large ring, indicating the general wealth inherent in the tribe. 

Barava - 8.5" X 4.5"H x .5"D

Height on museum stand 10"H

SKU - 114

This piece is basically a large circle, representing the general wealth inherent in the tribe. It is topped with a symbol representing a hornbill bird with two beaks.

Barava - 12"H X 8"W x .8"D

Height on museum stand - 13.75"H

Base 7" x 7"

SKU - 164

This piece has a large ring at the bottom, indicating the general wealth inherent in the tribe. The middle portion shows seven V-shaped steps, possibly representing past generations. Near the top are two circles, possibly eyes, and then more steps.

Barava - 9.75"H X 3.5"W x .5"D

Height on museum stand - 9.75"H

Base 4" x 4"

SKU - 161

This piece is different from the others because it has no human figures, and also a different design. The usual circle at the bottom represents the inherent wealth of the tribe. The order of the symbols seems to be random - at the top - curls, followed by anchors, circles, curls, circles, anchors, circles. An intriguing fretwork.

Barava - 11"H x 4.5"W x .5"D

Custom Made Koa Shadow Box - 17.5"H x 11.5"W x 3"D

SKU - 168

At the very top of this piece there is a curl motif, the negative space resembling and anchor. The rows below alternate between rings and curl/anchor motifs. At the bottom is a large ring, indicating the general wealth inherent in the tribe. 

Barava - 8.5" X 4.5"H x .5"D

Height on museum stand 10"H

SKU - 162

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