Pacific Islands Mask
Collecting objects from other cultures
This is a Yorkshire World Collections object, one of 100 chosen by young people aged 16-24, as part of the London Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.
This face mask is from the Pacific Islands, probably New Ireland. It is made of carved wood, painted, with a large crested headdress of trade clothes, coconut fibre, bark and string. It was used by clans in ceremonies involving memorial rites for the dead or initiation rites for young men.
This mask is one of the objects collected by the adventurer, scholar, soldier and environmentalist Major Percy Marlborough Stewart. He was described as an extraordinary man: born in 1871, a second cousin to Winston Churchill and one of 14 children, Major Stewart is reported to have said to his wife: 'We're terribly dull people, let's travel around the world and then we shall have something to talk about.'
In this spirit of adventure Stewart, most often with his wife, but sometimes on his own, made no less than eight round-the-world voyages between 1906 and 1926. He was curious about the world and its peoples and, as a record of his travels, he brought back a unique collection of artefacts. Many of these objects are recognised by UNESCO as of national and international importance.
- What do you think 'memorial' and 'initiation' rites were about?
- Why do you think these materials were used to make the mask?
- What do you think 'trade clothes' were?
- Why do you think the headdress is crested?
- Are there any other historical head-gear with a crest that you can think of?
- What would you need to be able to have been 'adventurer' in the time of Major Stewart?
- Who are today's 'adventurers'?
- Use the map below to see where New Ireland is in the Pacific Islands. What is its nearest very large country?
- Do some research to find out how many small islands there are in the Pacific Islands? Is the number closest to 1,000, 5,000, or 25,000?
Map of Latangai Island in the Pacific Ocean.»