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Diverse encounters

Tortoise shell mask

Tortoise shell mask, unknown maker
Erub, Torres Strait, 1844
Oc1846,0731.3, British Museum catalogue entry
Image courtesy British Museum

The exhibition

Diverse encounters

The exhibition in Australia will highlight the diverse range of encounters that occurred between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and British explorers, officials and settlers in different parts of Australia.

The objects in the British Museum’s collections originate from these encounters. The encounters began in 1770, span the continent and occurred at various times over the next three centuries.

This mask was collected by Joseph Beete Jukes in March 1844 on Erub, Torres Strait. At the time Jukes was the naturalist on the British naval ship the HMS Fly. At the time the Fly was surveying sea routes through the Torres Strait.

In his journal for late March 1845 Jukes wrote:

'I purchased for a knife a curious tortoise shell mask or face made to fit over the head which was used they told me in their dances. It was very fairly put together with hair beard and whiskers fastened on projecting ears and pieces of mother of pearl with a black patch in the centre for the eyes.

This and all the other native implements and curiosities I collected, are now in the British Museum.'