The Musée du Quai Branly is as much a work of architecture as it is a museum that houses a collection of 300,000 artifacts from Africa and Oceania. Jean Nouvel designed four structures with 30 multicolored, protruding cubes. Each cube contains an exhibition.
They have a wonderful collection of combs and photographs that show how they were worn.
For example, the Buang are a Papuan people of the Morobe district of North-East New Guinea. In 1954, François Girard took this photo of a Buang man wearing a comb at the Mission de Françoise Girard during a feast.
The Buang carved and engraved bamboo combs, such as this one, which is similar to the one worn in the photograph.
Artisans of the Kuy people in Cambodia were known for their textile-weaving skills. They wove ikat, an elaborate silk fabric for women’s sampot hol-skirts, and pidans, which were wall hangings used for ceremonial decoration. This wood comb, c. 1870, was made for weaving. It is framed with a dragon and has zoomorphic and floral motifs. The comb itself is bamboo. The slats are cut separately and stretched by a linen thread.
This pidan resides in the Honolulu Museum. The whole textile chronicles Prince Siddhartha (the future Buddah). He leaves the family palace, accompanied by the gods Indra and Brahma. Then he cuts off his hair, meditates under the bodhi tree, and attains Enlightenment.
This striking comb with five long teeth, an engraved bamboo top, and two blue beads looks like a dancer. It comes from Seram Island, the largest island of Maluku Province, Indonesia. The comb dates from the late 19th to the early 20th Centuries and was donated by Jean-Paul and Monique Barbier-Mueller. It was probably made for a man.
This is an aigrette on top of carved bamboo. In the Telei language of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, it is called a kutopagu. Between the comb and feather is possum fur. The two pieces of the comb itself are made from bamboo root, and are connected with plant fibers. This is a male adornment typical of the Southern region of Bougainville with carved motifs the color of lianas: woody, climbing vines that twine around trees and are plentiful in rain forests. According to Emilus Karako, these ornaments are no longer made.
For more scholarly research, please see our Resource Library and these books:
Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment
Gold Jewellery of the Indonesian Archipelago
Pictorial Cambodian Textiles: Traditional Celebratory Hangings