Tudu, Torres Strait
Influential Torres Strait leader Maino first met visiting anthropologist Alfred Haddon in 1888.
Explore how their cultural exchanges helped the British to learn about the richness of Tudu culture.
Setting the scene
Ned David, Magan man, 2015:
In terms of what I tell my children and, you know, my grandchildren ... this is evidence of our people, how they lived their life, how they celebrated their life … evidence of how they connect, respect and interact with their own environment — land and sea.
Maino was an influential leader in the Torres Strait. Anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon met Maino when he visited Tudu, in Magan country in the Torres Strait, in 1888.
Later they travelled together to New Guinea and around the islands of the Torres Strait, with Maino providing Haddon with valuable cultural information. They became good friends, and Maino’s contributions were crucial to Haddon’s work.
After Haddon returned to England, they exchanged letters, and worked together again during Haddon’s extended visit to the Torres Strait in 1898.
Haddon visited Maino again in 1912, when he went to Tudu with his daughter.
Dangal (dugong) charm
Haddon acquired this charm soon after he and Maino first met. Torres Strait Islanders crafted species-specific charms, such as this dugong charm, to help in their hunting and fishing endeavours. These modest figures, carved out of wood or stone, were hung on boats or hunting platforms to assist hunters in attracting and killing dugong.
Ned David, Magan man, 2015:
The artefacts that the old fella [Maino] had given to Haddon, to us today … you can’t place a value … on how important it is to us.
Alfred Cort Haddon, Torres Strait expedition journal, August 1888 entry:
I paid Maino a tomahawk, some calico (5 yds) & a little tobacco for the mask and the other articles [including these headdresses]. He said he was going to give the two former to his mother-in-law!
Learn about the meaning of objects
Watch this video where Gudang-Yadjaykenu traditional owner Nicholas Thompson-Wymarra talks about the history of Somerset and the meaning of objects.
Activity: Objects can carry different meanings, for different people at different times. Choose one of the objects from Gudang country shown above and examine what it might mean to:
- the person who made it
- the person who collected it
- someone seeing it in a museum
- a descendant of the person who made it.
Discover Maino’s gift
Watch this video where Magan man Ned David says: ‘The artefacts … and a number of other things that that old fella [Maino] had given to Haddon … you can’t place a value … on how important it is for us.’
Activity: Brainstorm with a friend your thoughts about why these artefacts are so important to Ned David and his family.
The dugong charm pictured above is designed to help in dugong hunting endeavours. Do you have a lucky object or charm? Draw and write about it, or design a lucky charm for an activity you enjoy.
Make your own woven fish from coloured paper after watching the weaving activity video inspired by our Lag Meta Aus: Home in the Torres Strait exhibition.
Draw a map of the Torres Strait Islands. Include and identify Tudu, Mer and Erub. See if you can also find Possession Island. This is where in 1770 James Cook declared the continent ‘terra nullius’ and claimed the land for the British King. Our Lag Meta Aus: Home in the Torres Strait website is a good starting point for this activity.
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