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Object: `ulafala (pandanus key necklace)

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Title `ulafala (pandanus key necklace)
Production Unknown, 20th Century, Samoa Islands
Medium summary pandanus key
Materials plant material
Classification necklaces
Dimensions Overall: x 600mm (Length) x 70mm (Width/Depth)
Credit line Gift of Government House, 1997
Registration number FE010595

In Samoa, 'ula (necklaces) are made from a variety of natural products such as fresh leaves, scented flowers, fruit, seeds, shells, and whales' teeth, threaded together in various combinations. They are worn for festive occasions and given as gifts to arriving or departing guests. Common in many Samoan homes, they not only adorn the occupants, but also hang upon pictures, statues, and walls.

Special adornment

This type of necklace is called an 'ulafala. It is most often worn by Samoan tulafale (orator chiefs). In the context of oratory performances, 'ulafala are important markers of social status. In other social and ceremonial situations they can help identify a special guest or simply act as an attractive adornment. 'Ulafala are made from segments of the pandanus fruit described by botantists as carpels, phalanges, or keys. The colour of the fruit spans a range from yellow through to orange and red when ripe. Red is a colour associated with high rank. This 'ulafala has been painted bright red, making it difficult to miss at any ceremony or function.


This 'ulafala was given to an unspecified Governor General of New Zealand between 1960 and 1990, and left in the attic in Government House, Wellington, until given to the Te Papa. It is part of a wider collection of objects acquired from Government House.

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Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.