Monday, 23 January 2012

The Friends of the Pitt Rivers go behind the scenes...

On the 18th January we hosted two groups of Friends of the Pitt Rivers in the Conservation Lab so that I could talk to them about my work on the Tahitian Mourner's costume.  Juliette Gammon, the editor of the Friends Newsletter, writes:

'Friends of the PRM went ‘Behind the Scenes’ of the Conservation Lab for a very special and privileged insight into Jeremy’s work on the Tahitian Mourner’s costume. Multi-layered and dyed barkcloth ponchos topped with an extraordinary cloak of bundled Tahitian pigeon feathers led one Friend to exclaim: “It must have been awfully hot to wear.”

We were fascinated by a ‘lost’ Forster collection object, a tamau or headdress made from a mile long rope of plaited human hair which was hidden under the feathered headdress, and learnt the spiritual significance of the plate-sized oyster shell breastplate and mask, the latter spiked with tropic bird feathers.

Among the many anecdotes from Cook’s two Tahitian voyages we heard how Joseph Banks, naturalist on the first voyage, entered into the spirit of things by donning a loincloth and blackening his body with charcoal. But, on that first trip, Cook came away empty-handed. On the second he was wiser, and stopped off in Tonga to gather objects containing red feathers - much prized for their symbolism in Tahiti. These were successfully traded for around ten mourner’s costumes.

Jeremy - many, many thanks from all of us for our own voyage of discovery. You can read more in the May issue of the Friends’ Newsletter.'

If you're interested in joing the Friends of the Pitt Rivers (FPRM) details can be found here: