Ceremonial Turtle Posts

Contributed by Kelvingrove Art Gallery

Ceremonial Turtle Posts from the Torres Straits © Glasgow City Council (Museums)

Only examples left in the worldThis is one of a pair of male and female carved wooden turtle posts, of an unknown date, from the Torres Straits. This turtle post, representing the smaller female figure, may be the only survivor of a ceremony thought to celebrate the fertility of people and nature on Dauar Island in the Torres Strait off the northern tip of Australia. Both posts were brought to Glasgow in 1889 by Robert Bruce, a Scottish missionary worker and boat builder living in the Torres Strait Islands with his family. Bruce found the posts in a cave on Waier, a small, uninhabited island near Dauar. It is thought that they may have been hidden there around 1871 when the islanders converted to Christianity and local customs were put aside. A re-enactment of the ceremony was witnessed and described by the Cambridge anthropologist Alfred C. Haddon (1855-1940), a friend of Bruce, 17 years after Christianity was introduced to the islands.

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