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Object: Selu la’au (wooden comb)

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Title Selu la’au (wooden comb)
Materials wood
Classification combs, hair ornaments
Dimensions Overall: 355mm (Length) x 70mm (Width)
Credit line Gift of Alexander Turnbull, 1913
Registration number FE000887

Selu la’au or selu pau as it is commonly known, were carved wooden combs made from the late 1800s using metal tools. A variety of wood was used; pau (Manikara hoshinoi), manapau (Mammea odorata), toi (Alphitonia zizyphoides), toa (Casuarina equisetifolia) or ifilele (Intsia bijuga). These wood species were also used to carve other items like household furniture, va’a (canoe) and foe (paddles). To carve the selu la’au designs, a fretwork technique was used which required cutting holes into the piece of thin wood to create intricate patterns. Selu la’au were placed in the hair for ornamental purposes.


Acquisition History

This selu dates from the 1800s and was gifted to the museum by Alexander Turnbull in 1913.



Buck, P. Samoan material culture. (Honolulu: The Museum, 1930)

Kramer, A. The Samoa Islands : an outline of a monograph with particular consideration of German Samoa / translated by Theodore Verhaaren. (Auckland: Polynesian Press, 1994)

Parham, B. Plants of Samoa: a guide to their local and scientific names with authorities; with notes on their uses, domestic, traditional and economic. (Wellington: Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1972)

Whistler, A. Plants in Samoan culture: the ethnobotany of Samoa. (Honolulu: Isle Botanica, 2000)

Related information

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