Title / object name
|Maker ||Date |
|Unknown ||circa 1870 |
Turtle shell, sennit, candle nuts, shells, feathers, pigmentMaterials
turtle shell, feather, candlenut oil
|430 (Height) x 374 (Width) x 355 (Depth)|
ceremonial objects, masks
Gift of the Marquess of Normanby, 1875
Masks, often made predominantly of turtle shell, were a feature of Torres Strait Islander culture. This example is unusual, if not unique, in its incorporation of a European-style, broad-brimmed hat. It is one of several important examples in Te Papa's collections that show early and striking Pacific adaptations of European hat styles.
The mask was given to the Colonial Museum (Te Papa's distant predecessor) in 1875 by George Augustus Constantine Phipps, Second Marquess of Normanby. He was Governor of Queensland, Australia, from 1871 to 1874 and presumably acquired, or was presented with, the mask during that time. He served as Governor of New Zealand from 1874 to 1878, during which he gave his small collection of Australian and New Guinea artefacts to the Museum. The mask is a superb example of the small but important group of Pacific objects given to the Colonial Museum by British administrators.
Nothing is known about how this mask was used or whether in fact it was made especially for presentation to a visiting British dignitary. The early 1870s were a time of rapid change in the Torres Straits Islands as contacts with Europeans greatly increased and the Islanders began to accept Christianity.