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Headrest kali

Headrest kali

Place: Tonga
Category: Household

wood, Tonga, l. 63–75.5 cm, Inv. Oz 348

Forster Register B.1: ‘2 rests from Otaheiti’ (= Oz 347 and Hanover 1854, No. 6)

Humphrey No. 208: ‘another [wooden stool] used for the like purpose by the Indians at the Friendly Isles. It differs from the other in not being so broad in proportion to the length, which is greater than the Otaheitean one, the legs project with a Shoulder from the sides, are not united, and have round feet.’ (= Oz 348)

One of three headrests made of wood, consisting of a flat piece supported by two pairs of legs. The pieces are slightly convex and become wider from the middle towards both ends. Each pair of legs is horseshoe-shaped with the curve on top. The ends of each leg are broadened to form a foot.

Headrests from the eighteenth century varied greatly in form. Söderström (1939: 45) gave a description of what he claimed to be the ‘usual Tonga type’ of headrests (or as he called them ‘wooden pillows’): ‘ ... with a narrow, concave ‘seat’ and outcurving legs with slightly broadened, round and flattened feet.’ This type is also depicted by Anderson (in Beaglehole 1967, Illb: 941). Apart from this type of headrest (see Oz 347 and Oz 348), three-legged (see Oz 690) and five-legged kali were also collected on Cook’s voyages (Kaeppler 1978a: 228-30).

Anderson (in Beaglehole 1967, Illb: 941) stated that the headrests were used by the Tongans for resting their heads while asleep. The use of the kali as ‘pillows’ is also mentioned by Samwell (in Beaglehole 1967, Illb: 1036). Inken Köhler, Ulrike Rehr, Gundolf Krüger


Beaglehole, John Cawte, The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery The Voyage of the Resolution and Discovery 1776-1780, Hakluyt Society, Extra Series, 36, 1 u. 2. vol. 3, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1955-1967 IIIa and IIIb.

Kaeppler, Adrienne L, ‘Artificial Curiosities’ Being An Exposition of Native Manufactures Collected on the Three Pacific Voyages of Captain James Cook RN [Exhibition catalogue], Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, 1978a.

Söderström, Jan, A. Sparrman’s Ethnographical Collection from James Cook’s 2nd Expedition (1772-75), New Series, Publication no. 6, The Ethnographical Museum of Sweden, Stockholm, 1939.

Related artefacts

Headrest kali, Inv. Oz 690

Headrest kali, Inv. Oz 347

Headrest kali, Hanover 1854, No. 6

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