photographic print / cabinet card
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Photograph (black and white); cabinet card; portrait of a woman, Elaisa, sitting in a wood chair in front of a neutral backdrop; she wears an off-the-shoulder cloth and lace top, patterned cloth skirt and a plant material belt; she is holding a fan; Tonga.
- 1889 - 1890
- Photographed in: Tonga
- Height: 14.3 centimetres (image)
- Width: 10.4 centimetres (image)
- Height: 15.1 centimetres (mount)
- Width: 10.7 centimetres (mount)
Inscription Positionback of mount
A Tongan woman with
Samoan fan in her hand.
Inscription Commentblack ink, handwritten.
Related images: Oc,B42 through Oc,B55 all contain Joseph Jackson Lister donation images. The glass negative for this image exists in the BM Pictorial Collection: Oc,G.N.1642.
Exact image: Oc,B46.2, Oc,B55.3, and Oc,B130.128.This photograph of a Tongan woman Elisa, were collected by Joseph Jackson Lister, though it is unclear whether he actually took the photograph, though it is likely he did. Lister was a British zoologist who collected plants from Africa, Asia and Oceania, specifically collecting in Tonga in 1889 - 1890 while serving as a volunteer naturalist on the surveying expedition of the HMS Egeria. ( See: Notes on the Geology of the Tonga Islands; J. J. Lister; Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society; 1891; v. 47; issue.1-4; p. 590-617; AND Notes on the Natives of Fakaofu (Bowditch Island). Union GroupAuthor(s): J. J. ListerSource: The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 21(1892), pp. 43-63).
It was during this expedition when Lister would have taken or collected the hundreds of photographs of Tongans that are in this collection. The photographic portrait of Elaisa expresses aspects of the impact and complex cultural adaptations and negotiations that were a result of contact with Europeans, colonialism and missionary work.
Elaisa wears a dress that is part traditional fibre, the raffia skirt and woven fan, and part European – what is likely a second-hand Victorian dress. The fan in traditional pointed paddle shape was likely woven from coconut frond, and the skirt, known as a kiekie, is a traditional garment, often made from pandanus leaves, and hibiscus bast fibre, as well as other possible additions. The adaption of European clothing in Tonga was a sign of someone’s conversion to Christianity, but the specific localised adaptations and uses of such clothing has had as much to do with the perpetuation and diversification of Tongan traditions as it has had to do with European influence.
2009 31 July-6 Dec, London, BM, Pacific Portraits
- Associated with: Tonga
Africa, Oceania & the Americas
- 12 (photographic series number)
- Oc-G.N.-1642 (BM glass negative series number)
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Object reference number: EPF101356
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