Woman's Valuable (Tolúk)
Woman's Valuable (Tolúk)

Woman's Valuable (Tolúk)

c. 1800 Caroline Islands

Offered by Walpoles

£2,250 gbp
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A Woman's Valuable or tolúk from Belau (formerly Palau), Caroline Islands. Turtleshell (Chelonia mydas) molded into the form of a dish, in untouched condition the back revealing a beautiful patina particularly to the edges of the dish, the surface indicative of age dating back to the 19th century or earlier.
The accumulation and exchange of wealth in the form of prestige valuables is an important aspect of Belauan culture. Although frequently referred to as "money," Belauan valuables are not currency in the ordinary sense but treasured objects, often with extensive individual histories, which are exchanged between families, (rather than within) only on important occasions such as births, marriages, or deaths. Men and women each have their own forms of wealth, which cannot be owned or exchanged by members of the opposite sex. Women's wealth consists of tolúk (shallow trays), such as this, and itrir (spoons) made from plates of turtle shell.
To form the trays, individual plates of turtle shell are immersed in hot water to soften them. When malleable, these plates are placed in two-part molds of wood, which are tied tightly together and further heated to press the plates into the desired bowl-like form. Still within the mold, the turtle shell is placed in cold water to harden and once cooled, the newly formed tolúk is ready to be shaped around its edge. This present example exhibits a beautiful cloud like pattern to its reverse side. As no mention is made of these trays ever being decorated, it is most likely that this pattern results from the grain of the wooden mold being impressed into the shell.
length almost 8in x 4.25 in
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5 Commonwealth Buildings
Woolwich Church Street
SE18 5NS

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