Giant Clamshell Ring, mid 20th century
Abelam People, Prince Alexander Mountains, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
Private collection, Sydney
YUA, or Wealth Rings, are made from the giant clamshell Tridacna, are the most important wealth items among the people of the Prince Alexander Mountains in the East Sepik region. The Wealth Rings were cut from a large clamshell using bamboo instruments, then carefully ground with sand to create a smooth flat finish. This was a long and arduous task.
The YUA were often buried, to protect them from being plundered during tribal wars. In addition, the YUA is a “head ring”, meaning it was the principle ring when lined up in a bride price transaction. These wealth exchanges, during marriage, compensation and funeral ceremonies, always comprise many rings of varying sizes.