In the far north-west of Australia, a much larger shell offered people quite a different object to work with. The pearl shell, with its large flat shape, became a canvas upon which to inscribe designs. The shells were harvested off shore at very low equinox tides. People from the Buccaneer Archipelago used Gaalwa rafts constructed of mangrove logs fastened together with wooden pegs to visit offshore reefs. Both men and women were involved in different aspects of the harvesting, crafting and wearing of pearl shell.
The pearl shell, with its large flat shape, became a canvas upon which to inscribe designs.
The Kimberley coast was renowned for its incised and decorated pearl shell – known as riji or jakuli in the Bardi Jawi language. After gathering the shell, it would be opened and cleaned and have one to three attachment holes pierced by a stone flake. Some shells were not engraved, but most were incised on the lustrous inner face of the shell with ochre or charcoal infill.