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The Chief Mourner’s Costume

Ceremonial dress in 18th century Oceania

Talk

Tuesday 4 December 2018
11am — 12pm

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Part of our

Oceania

events programme
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Chief Mourner's costume (detail), before 1792.

Pearl shell, feathers, bark cloth, coconut shell, wood, fiber. Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Exeter City Council; photo: © Peter Stephens Photography.

Dr. Maia Nuku unravels the significance of this spectacular and intriguing masterpiece of Pacific art known as the ‘Chief Mourner’s Costume’. Looking at compelling archival material, this talk will reveal the underlying cosmological aspects of this spectacular outfit and its ongoing significance for contemporary Pacific Islanders today.

The ‘Chief Mourner’s Costume’ ensemble brought together the finest and rarest of Tahitian resources: iridescent pearl-shell, tropic bird tail feathers and the highest-grade barkcloth textiles, to produce an outfit worthy of the sanctity of the island’s divine chiefs. This extraordinary example was collected in Tahiti in 1791 by Francis Godolphin Bond who served as First Lieutenant on HMS Providence, captained by his uncle, the infamous Captain Bligh, on his return to the Pacific two years after the mutiny on the Bounty.

This talk considers compelling archival material relating to the ceremonies in which the ensemble was originally used before revealing the underlying cosmological aspects of this spectacular outfit and its ongoing significance for contemporary Pacific Islanders today.

Dr. Maia Nuku

Born in London of English and Maori (Ngai Tai) descent, Maia Nuku’s doctoral research focused on eighteenth century collections of Polynesian art. She completed two post-doctoral fellowships at Cambridge University as part of an international research team exploring Oceanic collections in major European institutions in France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Germany and Russia. In 2014 she moved to New York to become Associate Curator for Oceanic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

● Fully booked

● Cancelled

Tuesday 4 December 2018

11am — 12pm

The Reynolds Room, Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly. Enter via the Keeper's House.

£10, £6