Feathers are the most important part of personal adornment for traditional ceremonial dress of the people Marie Reay studied in the Waghi Valley. Demand for the plumes and feathers of the Raggiana or Red Bird of Paradise, is high and often exceeds the potential supply in the neighboring mountain areas. During the height of the Konggol dances, Marie Reay described the sight of the dancers as "a sea of gaudy plumes."
Marie Reay found that trade goods fell roughly into "three broad categories of worth." Feathers were in the group that was most highly prized, with pigs and certain shells used for adornment. Depending on one's social standing, feathers were not just for ceremonial occasions. A clan leader typically wears a hawk's wing instead of a full headdress on informal occasions.
Feathers are also very highly prized for use as betrothal and marriage payments. Marie Reay found that marriage payments were not made once, but many times over the course of the lives of the couple. A man would continue to pay his wife's family "plumes and ornaments to her brothers" upon the birth of a child, on her death, or the death of any of her children. In this way, ties between the groups were kept strong, and a man was almost always indebted to his wife's clan. Marriage payments were often carried to the bride's family on a bamboo banner attached to a pole. A photograph from Marie Reay's collection of one such bride-price is in the exhibition below. The plumes and feathers are arranged in a row along the outside of the banner.
Although feathers were often part of the bride-price, once the bride was a wife, such ornamentation was usually denied to married women. Marie Reay, in her posthumously-published manuscript, Wives and Wanderers, remarked, "splendid plumes and glittering shell ornaments were not for them, and they had no part in the men's dancing. Little girls and adolescents could deck themselves in plumes and shells and take part, but married women had to be content with watching" the Konggol dances.