Plan number 47
Galerie Meyer - Oceanic Art as it stands today was created in January 1980 by my mother Rita Alix Meyer. I joined her in October of 1980 and as junior partner in 1981. Since then I have devoted my self to the fine and early arts of the Pacific cultures authoring numerous exhibition catalogues and an important reference book on the subject of Oceanic Art. Following my mothers retirement I have run the gallery on my own since 1996. In 2010 I opened a second department in my gallery dealing in the archaic art forms of the early Eskimo cultures.
17 rue des Beaux Arts, France
Tema or kapkap, chest ornament
Area: Graciosa Bay area (?), Ndende Island, Santa Cruz Islands, Para-Polynesia, Melanesia.
Period: 19th century
Technic: Shell (Tridacne gigas), natural fiber string reinforcement and turtle-shell (Hawksbill turtle : eretmochelys)
Dimension: 15 cm x 0.4 cm.
Origin: Collected in situ by Reverend Charles Coleridge Harper in 1885.
Copyright: © M. Gurfinckel, Paris c. Galerie Meyer Oceanic Art
Is a chest ornament worn only by men in the Santa Cruz Group. It is the central and most important element of the ceremonial costume and its size and quality are indicative of the owner’s wealth and social importance. The representation of the iconography is no longer recorded but the most probable hypothesis is that it represents the silhouette of a frigate bird against the full moon or the sun. The vertical, double row of triangles situated above the bird motif are probably representations of stylized fish. One other possibility is that the two long lateral points (of what appears to be the frigate bird) are each a profile (or cut-away) view of the head of a mythological dog, whose front paw is shown as one half of the inverted central "V" form – this could be a reference to the nguzunguzu canoe prow ornaments. It is probable that the larger tema are the oldest. For this matter, tema measuring fifteen centimeters or more in diameter are exceedingly rare. Charles Coleridge Harper (1866-1943), an Anglican priest, an associate of the Melanesian Mission and grandson of Henry John Chitty Harper (1804-1893), the first Archbishop of Christchurch, New Zealand. Acquired in 1885 whilst part of the Melanesian Mission expedition on the 125-ton barque-rigged schooner Southern Cross with Rev Arthur Brittan to various islands across the south Pacific. Thence by descent through the family. Harper noted in his surviving diaries in 1885, upon arriving at Santa Cruz where the present example was acquired : "the men are all elaborately adorned; they wear breastplates of shell, and armlets of the same material...".