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Mayngu Dhoeri or pearl shell headdress

Date: c 1993
Dimensions:
930 mm, 0.5 kg
Display Dimensions: 930 x 850 x 570 mm, 500 kg
Medium: Pearl shell, metal, cassowary feathers, wood, paint, cardboard
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Headdress
Object No: 00015127
Place Manufactured:Boigu Island

User Terms

    Description
    A Mayngu Dhoeri or pearl shell headdress from the Torres Strait, made by late Sipau Audi Gibuma of Boigu Island. Boigu Island is the most northerly inhabited island in the Torres Strait.
    The piece is made of pearl shell, cassowary feathers, wood, house paint and cardboard.
    Also known as an eclipse mask.
    SignificanceSongs and dances are very important to the cultures of the Torres Strait. Through performance, stories could be told and natural events and elements explained and presented to younger generations. Elaborate headdresses and 'dance machines' helped tell these stories and were an important part of the performance.


    HistoryThis headdress is the type constructed for a performance called 'merlpal kulkan patan' or 'blood covering the moon'. The performance occurs during a lunar eclipse and the sun's passage across the moon is said to portend warfare and bloodshed on another island. During the eclipse, a chant is raised and all the island names are recited in turn. The island named at the instant of the moon's re appearance, is considered to be at war.

    Gibuma purchase most of the material he need for the headdress from the local shop. The pearl shell are abundant near the Island and the cassowary feathers are from Papua New Guniea. Boigu Island is only a few kilometers from the Papua New Guniea mainland. Gibuma trades with the Mamoose family at Mari. Gibuma's have always traded with this family and could not possibly go anywhere else for the cassowary feathers he uses in his headdresses.
    Pearl shells have always had an important economic and artistic use on Boigu Island, and are used as personal decoration as well as on dance headdresses.
    Boigu was one of the few islands that had a harbour suitable for luggers and was one of the last surviving lugger ports in the Torres Strait. Many of the Gibuma family worked on the luggers.

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