cape (cape)

Decorative Art


Acquired by 1st Lieutenant Francis Godolphin Bond on the HMS Providence, which arrived in Matavai Bay, Tahiti, on 9 April 1792. Bond donated this costume to the Devon and Exeter Institution in 1815, of which he was a proprietor. This gift was recorded in the D&EI committee meeting minutes. The Devon & Exeter Institution presented this costume to the Albert Memorial Museum in 1872..

Length = 1270 x width = 1155mm

A Tahitian chief possessed great social status but also charged with great spiritual power called mana. Upon the death of a chief their body was treated accordingly and mounted on biers shrouded in fine white barkcloth. Relatives would gather around the bier and mourn.

A senior relative would appear in a mourner’s costume (heva tupapa’u) to lead a spectacular procession, accompanied by family members with their skins blackened with soot. Pearl-shell clappers would warn people as the procession approached to withdraw or conceal themselves. Otherwise they could face being attacked or injured with a sword edged with shark teeth.

Anne D’Alleva, 1994
“Off-white foundation piece with red and black overlays, the black cut out in diamond-shapes to show the red and yellow strips underneath. Red part cut in diamond shapes to reveal off-white cloth underneath. Stylistically related to another Bond barkcloth (E1767b). Also related to barkcloth collected on the voyage of the Providence by midshipman Matthew flinders (1933.10.23.4). Foundating cloth probably originally yellow. Undecorated top edge folded over, sewn, with cord strung through (modern).

This object is on display at RAMM in the World Cultures gallery.

More like this

Leave a comment

Subject to approval, your name and blog comment will be made public. Any comment replies will also be public. Your email address will never be published. If you wish to contact us privately, please use the Contact form.

Leave a comment