Kiwai, Western Province, Papua New Guinea, 1800-1900
Feathers, wood, natural fiber, pigments
Width : 46 cm
Provenance : Loed van Bussel, Amsterdam
Acher Eskenasy, Paris
This rare frontlet originates from the kiwai-speaking peoples living on the coastal region of
the Fly River Delta and on northern Torrest Strait.
Gunnar Landtman’s research, undertaken between 1910 and 1912, is the foundation stone
for understanding the culture of the Kiwai. He made a comprehensive collection of Kiwai
material culture now housed in the Museum of Cultures in Helsinki and a second, duplicate
set for the Cambridge Museum. In Nya Guinea färden [New Guinea expedition], his detailed
travelogue of his work and life among the Kiwai, he gives a description of the different types
of headdress worn by the indigenous peoples. In his study of Gunnar Landtman’s collections
held by the National Museum of Finland, David Lawrence reports that “The finest headdress
worn by the Torres Strait Islanders and coastal Kiwai-speaking peoples was the dori (kiwai).
Its importance as a cultural item is still such that it is a most visible symbol of Islander culture,
particularly for the eastern Islanders and the dari (eastern islands) is the most prominent
symbol on the officially recognised Torrest Strait Islander flag.
The headdress consists of a woven rattan frame in either an “n” or “m” shape. (...) The feathers
of the white reef heron (Demigretta sacra) or the Torresian pigeon (Ducula bicolor) were inserted
into the frame to form a fan shape. (...)
The dori were often quite large and elaborate. When worn in night dances with the dance
groynd illuminated with small fires or torches, the actions imitating the movements of the
reef heron could be pmost spectacular and effective. Like the dari used in “Island dance” the
headdresses serve to frame the face and special dance effects are achieved by turning the head
suddenly so that the image of the reef heron appears and disappears.
(...) Other items of ornamentation and dress included a large variety of stiff frontlets (makeso)
made from rattan or fibre plaited on to a bamboo frame that were worn across the forehead
and tied at the back of the head. Frontlets were made in a variety of designs : tringular semiovoid
or even a lozenge shape. Landtman wrote that these frontlets could be used both with
and without cassowary feather decorations.”
David R. LAWRENCE, Gunnar Landtman in Papua 1910-1912, The Australian National University, 2010, p. 156-157
7 500 euros