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Basket kato

Basket kato

Place: Tonga
Category: Baskets & fans

coconut leaf ribs, fibre, Tonga, l. 41 cm, h. 28 cm, Inv. Oz 116

Humphrey No. 174: ‘a strong Basket made of a small bundles of Twigs formed in an oval shape and covered with neatly plaited Cordage used for carrying fish in, from the Friendly Isles.’ (Oz 115)

Forster Register B.3: ‘2 large and 4 smaller baskets [from Otaheite]’ (= Oz 116)

The oval basket Oz 115 consists of a framework of bundles of sticks from the midribs of the fronds of a coconut palm leaf, wrapped up with coconut fibre strings, and connected to one other with the same material. The concentric stick bundles arranged outwards from the elongated base are attached by the coconut fibre strings in the same way as the horizontal, parallel bundles which form the sides of the basket. Along the upper edge of the elongated opening are the remains of a handle, in the middle of both sides, made of light, twisted plant fibres. The basket exhibits a pattern of black dyed, vertically arranged rectangles with frayed ends. The colour was presumably made from the soot of burnt Aleurites nuts. A Humphrey label with the number 174 is stuck on to one side next to the handle.

The similarly oval basket Oz 116 was manufactured in the same way as Oz 115. Small, medium brown leaf strips were used as a binding material instead of coconut fibre strings. The upper edge of the basket opening is partly reinforced by diagonally woven leaf strips. The remains of the handle consist of finely plaited coconut fibres. In contrast to Oz 115, the basket Oz 116 does not exhibit a colour pattern.

Both baskets lack any embellishment in the form of coconut shells or mussel fragments, and may be considered rare in comparison to the decorated, double-walled containers (bags and baskets) from Tonga (cf. Augustin 1993: 118). In contrast to the hand-woven, undecorated containers, such as the specimen Oz 138, both baskets are reinforced or stiffened by a framework of stick bundles, similar to baskets in collections in Vienna, Berne and Florence (cf. Moschner 1955: 196, 197, No. 58, Fig. 64; Kaeppler 1978b: 42, Fig. 76; 104, Fig. 164).

According to the above statement by Humphrey, these baskets were evidently used for holding fish, quite possible when these are compared to the flatter, narrower, or smaller pieces. Inken Köhler, Ulrike Rehr, Gundolf Krüger


Augustin, Stephan, Kunstsachen von Cooks Reisen - Die Sammlung und ihre Geschichte im Völkerkundemuseum Herrnhut, Museum für Völkerkunde, Dresden, 1993.

Kaeppler, Adrienne L, Cook Voyage Artifacts in Leningrad, Berne and Florence Museums, Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, 1978b.

Moschner, Irmgard, ‘Die Wiener Cook-Sammlung, Südsee-Teil’, Archiv für Völkerkunde, Vienna and Stuttgart, 1955, vol. 10, pp. 136-253.

Related artefact

Basket kato, Inv. Oz 115


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