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Place: Tahiti & Society Islands
Category: Mats

lauhala (pandanus) fibre, Tahiti and the Society Islands, l. 102/109 cm, w. 163/160 cm, Inv. Oz 148

Humphrey No. 119: ‘A piece of very fine Matting with a fringed border, made of the fibres of the plantain leaf of a light brown Colour, from ditto [Friendly Isles].’ (= Oz 148) The very finely plaited mat Oz 148 has a somewhat uneven rectangular cut. It is plaited diagonally in a chequered pattern of whitish-yellow leaf strips (purau, Hibiscus tiliaceus) c. 1-1.5 mm wide. Around the edges, there is a reinforcement c. 1 cm wide from an additional strip woven into it. On all four sides, the fine leaf strips end in a 7-8 cm wide fringe. There is an indication in Banks (1896: 153) that mats were generally used for sleeping on. In particular, the very fine mats made from Hibiscus were also made into garments (presumably tiputa). In addition, Bunzendahl (1935: 132f.) listed the following uses: as a floor covering, for sitting on, as partitions or curtains, sails and sacrificial offerings for deities. As with balls of barkcloth, they were otherwise stored as rolls of mats, giving an indication of the owner’s wealth. Handy (1971) gave a very detailed description of the plaiting techniques used. A specimen very similar to the fringed mat Oz 148 is located in the collection in Berne and is depicted by Kaeppler (1978b: 51, Fig. 92). Other pieces are present in the collections in Oxford, Cambridge, and Wörlitz (cf. Kaeppler 1978a: 131). Gundolf Krüger


Banks, Joseph, Journal of the Right Hon. Sir Joseph Banks During Captain Cook’s First Voyage in H.M.S. Endeavour in 1768-71 to Terra del Fuego. Otahite, New Zealand, Australia, the Dutch East Indies etc., by Sir Joseph D Hooker, London, 1896.

Bunzendahl, Otto, Tahiti und Europa: Entdeckungsgeschichte der Gesellschaftsinseln, Studien zur Völkerkunde, Leipzig, 1935, vol. 8.

Handy, Willowdean Chatterson, Handcrafts of the Society Islands [1927]. Bernice P Bishop Museum Bulletin, vol. 42, New York, 1971.

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.

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

Related artefacts

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