Hunterian Museum Collection, GLAHM E.427
Art Historical Description
Kafa palua belts of this kind were among the greatest cultural treasures of mid-19th century Niuean society; an item of chiefly regalia, and one of the great rarities of the Hunterian’s Pacific art collection. It was donated to the museum in 1860 by the Reverend Dr George Turner, being item No.41 on his donation list (“Fancy Feather Belt from Savage Island”). In 1859, Turner was the first European to be welcomed to the island, and returned to the London Missionary Society station at Malua on ‘Upolu with a set of gifts from the recently-converted people, including this item, which he donated to the University less than a year later.
Its construction method is interesting: A slender central core of plaited coconut-fibre cordage is wrapped spirally with plain white hiapo barkcloth, tied into place with another spiralling cord of more finely plaited cordage which falls in the opposite direction. Into this fine outer binding are tied a plethora of bright feathers from the undertail of the kulukulu or the purple-capped dove (Ptilinopus porphyraceus porphyraceus). Rarities such as this provide us with glimpses of the richness of Niuean material culture predating the mission period, and also show links to the art works of wider Polynesia, such as the maro reya yellow feather regalia belts of the Society Islands.
665cm (length) x 2cm (width)
bark removal; pre-soaking; wet shell cortex stripping; short bast soak; initial beating – wooden anvil and square beater; pre-fusing; spreading and homogenisation; flat-faced beater smoothing; post-completion conditioning
Associated Fabric Types
Entry created on 28 August 2020