Tahitian mourner's costume

Contributed by Perth Museum and Art Gallery

The mask headdress, breastplate and apron of a Tahitian mourner's costume.  Copyright Perth Museum & Art Gallery.

There are only five such costumes in this state of preservation in the world. One is in the British Museum.
This remarkable costume once worn by the Chief Mourner at a high-ranking Tahitian's funeral, was acquired by David Ramsay (1794-1860), a native of Perth in Scotland, who sailed to Australia as a ship's surgeon in the early 1820s. He settled in New South Wales, sending back a collection of 'curiosities' to the museum of the Literary and Antiquarian Society of Perth in 1825. The costume in Perth is one of only a handful of examples surviving worldwide, the two other examples in Britain, at the British Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, were both acquired on the Second of the Voyages of Captain Cook in 1772-4.

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  • 2 comments
  • 1. At 16:53 on 24 March 2010, Tony Eccles wrote:

    Another fine example of a Tahitian mourner's costume can be found at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) in Exeter. This piece was acquired by Lt. Francis Godolphin Bond, likely during Captain Bligh's Second Voyage to Tahiti of 1791-3. Bond distinguished himself in the navy and later retired to Exeter. He became one of the proprietors to the Devon & Exeter Institution in 1813, a literary and philosophical society that benefitted from his collection of souvenirs. This collection was eventually transferred to RAMM in 1868.

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  • 2. At 06:26 on 13 November 2010, islandbaygardener wrote:

    Another one is in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. It has an elaborate shell apron. http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/objectdetails.aspx?oid=155805

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