- Museum number
Mask made of turtle-shell plates which have been bent to form an elaborate human face, and sewn into place with fibre; inlaid shell eyes.
- Production date
- 19thC (before 1855)
Length: 40 centimetres
- Curator's comments
See Simpson 2021 for an argument why this object may have been collected by Frederick Whittle.
Description from Extracts from the British and Medieval Register 1757-1878, p.184:
169. A mask made of tortoise shell long and narrow. L. 16 in. W. 9 inches. From Murrays Island, Torres Straits.
This mask is discussed in Haddon's 'Expedition to the Torres Strait', vol 4, p.298, who suggests that it was of the kind used in funeral ceremonies; an accompanying sketch by a Torres Strait islander shows a mask being worn on top of the head, and certainly the shell eyes on this mask would prevent a wearer from seeing through them. An original label on the top of the mask says 'A Tortoise Shell mask from Murray's Island, Torres Strait' (best guess - the label is faded). (MOH,4/1996).
Comment from Jude Philp, Senior Curator at the Macleay Museum in 2009 'wooden and turtle-shell masks often have 'eye' holes through the nose element'. This would enable the wearer of the mask to see out.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1993, London, Hayward Gallery, Aratjara: Aboriginal Art from Australia
1998, University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, Torres Strait Islanders
2015 23 Apr-2 Aug, London, BM, G35, Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation
2015-2016 27 Nov-28 Mar, Canberra, National Museum of Australia, Encounters
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Presented by the Lords of the Admiralty through Sir John Liddell, C.B. (the Museum of Haslar Hospital)
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number