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Object: mama (ring)

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Title mama (ring)
Materials turtle shell
Classification rings
Credit line Gift of Barbara Williams, 1986
Registration number FE008260

Rings, bracelets and brooches were popular forms of personal adornment made in Samoa from at least the 1920’s to the present day. They were typically made of turtle shell, coconut shell and coloured glass. Many of them feature a silver inset of words and/or motifs.

Inspirations and appropriation

Examples of bracelets collected in the 1960’s show the Samoan appropriation of ideas and motifs from other cultures. Made with the same inset elements they feature motifs such as swordfish, turtles and Fijian bure (houses) alongside the words Apia and Samoa. But as well as borrowing other cultural motifs or symbols, new and readily available materials were also utilised. In 1964, brooches and pins were commonly made from toothbrush handles and the rims of sunglasses. These techniques of manufacture and style of item are still commonly found in contemporary Apia markets.


This ring is part of a small collection of jewellery, ornaments and textiles that belonged to Percy Williams, founding headmaster (1924–27) of Avele Agricultural School and teacher (1928–31) at Malifa School, Samoa. Many of Samoa’s future leaders attended these schools, benefiting from the foundations that Williams helped to establish. These items were donated to Te Papa by Barbara Williams in 1986.

Related information

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.