Ceremonial headdress

Ceremonial headdress
Raivavae Island, French Polynesia
19th cent.Wood, coconut, shells, feathers, human hair
60 x 130 cm
Inv. ET.1365

Polynesian headdresses often recall the very hierarchical structure of these island societies. This one, of astonishing breadth, must certainly have belonged to a high-ranking dignitary whose status was, as always in that area of the world, linked to ostentatious signs.

It is composed of bird feathers, plaques cut from seashells and many tufts of human hair. Each component has its significance. The wild birds and sea animals that make up the fauna of remote Pacific islands quite often refer to the divine world, thus making feathers, bones and shells ornaments of high metaphorical value. Polynesians associate the life force with hair, in particular the top knots often worn by men.


Discover this masterpiece on the online museum catalogue Carmentis and in the book Masterpieces of the Cinquantenaire Museum.