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Headband (Uhikana)

The contrast between the dark turtle shell and the light color of certain seashells must have been admired by the people of the Marquesas Islands, for their two most elaborate headdress types, the headband shown here and the coronet (paekaha), prominently feature a combination of those materials. James Cook, the eighteenth-century British explorer who stopped at the Marquesas Islands in 1774, referred to the headbands as the Marquesans’ major headdress and “chief ornament, ” noting that feathers were attached upright to the bands, adding greater height and prominence. The uhikana seems to have been a male headdress, worn by chiefs, warriors, and male dancers.

Marquesas Islands
Headband (Uhikana)
19th century
Pearl shell, turtle shell, fiber
L. 19 3/8 in. (49.2 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 2010.7