Arts and Crafts of the Cook Islands
The people of the Cook Islands enjoyed adorning themselves with headdresses (pare) that ranged from simple wreaths of flowers and leaves to elaborate structures decorated with feathers, shells, and human hair. Wreaths were worn at festivals, but workers in the cultivations wore a strip of banana leaf or a leafy vine twined around the head. Even today, the people cannot resist making a wreath when they find flowers or fragrant leaves in the woods. A wreath was named after the plant used, one of the maire fern being termed a pare maire. The elaborate headdresses were worn by chiefs and priests to mark social distinction.
The only real necessity for headgear was protection of the eyes from the glare of the sun while fishing. For this purpose eyeshades (taumata) were made of coconut leaflets plaited in check. They were peaked in front and had prolongations at either end for tying around the head (fig. 26).
A turban or a cone-shaped cap was a piece of white bark cloth wrapped around the head. It was worn by men at public gatherings and in war. Cook (20, p. 171), describing the costume of the Mangaians, says: "And almost all of them had a white wrapper about their heads, not much unlike a turban; or, in some instances, like a high conical cap." Later, after a close observation of two men, he remarked that the loin cloths were glazed "but the cloth on their heads was white like that which is found in Otaheite [Tahiti]." Bark cloth is no longer manufactured, hence bark cloth caps and turbans are no longer worn.
A better form of headdress was made of feathers attached to bands which were tied around the head. A further development consisted of cone-shaped page 80hats made of coir with a coiled technique, and a further elaboration consisted of attaching feathers in various ways to the coir caps.
The straw hats introduced by missionaries and traders have been copied in local material such as pandanus and coconut leaf with a plaiting technique, and they have completely ousted the native coir and feather headdresses. Some few coir caps remain in Atiu; one ornamented with feathers, is still retained by the Makea family in Rarotonga.
The present study of technique has been made on the headdresses in museums.
Parts of the bark of selected plants such as the 'au, oronga, breadfruit, and paper mulberry and the husk fibers surrounding the nut of the coconut palm were used as attachment material. For clarity, the following terms are used:
- Bark: includes the stiffer outer epidermis and the inner more flexible parts of the bark covering of plants.
- Bast: the inner layer of bark (kiko) which is separated from the outer epidermis (pakiri).
- Coir: the fibers of coconut husk which have been separated from the interfibrous material.
- Filament: a very thin, threadlike strip of bast in which individual straight fibers cannot be separated.
- Fiber: the long threadlike elements obtained by removing the interfibrous material from the bast of certain trees such as 'au and oronga and the single elements of coir.
- Strip: a length of bast or fiber which has not been made into a cord or braid.
- Strand: a strip of material prepared to be included as a ply of a cord or a braid.
- Ply: a strand which has been included in a cord or braid.
- Thread: a thin two-ply twist of bast or fiber. If more than two plies are used, the number should be specified; as "three-ply thread," etc. Thread should not be used as synonymous with filament or fiber.
- Cord: a two-ply twist of bast or fiber, thicker than a thread and thinner than a rope; if more than two plies are used, the cord should be specified as "three-ply cord," etc.
- Braid: a three-ply in which the outer plies are alternately crossed over the middle ply in a plait as opposed to a twist; when more than three plies are used, it should be specified as "four-ply braid", "five-ply braid", etc.
- Sennit: arbitrarily confined to a braid (three-ply) made of coir; synonymous with the native term ka'a.
- Tapa: cloth which has been prepared from bast.
Feathers and Feather Attachments
A feather consists of a solid median shaft or rachis of which the free end is hollow and termed the quill or calamus. The shaft supports barbs on either side and the webs formed by the barbs are termed vanes. In flight and tail feathers, the inner vane is wider than the outer vane. In headdresses, large feathers may be attached singly, whereas small feathers such as the red body feathers of the parakeet are tied together in small bunches with transverse turns of a fiber or filament around the quills. Some of the longer feathers are split down the shaft, and the part with the wider, inner vanes is usually pre-page 81ferred for decoration. Split feathers used in bunches usually curl and give a softer appearance than whole feathers.
The red feathers (kura) of the parakeet (Coriphilus sp.) were the most valuable as decoration for headdresses and religious objects. The wing and tail feathers were also used. The tail feathers of the tropic bird (tavake, Phaethon sp.), man-of-war hawk (kota'a, Fregata minor), and domestic fowl were used for plumes, and feathers of the pigeon [Ducula (Globicera) pacifica] and various seabirds were also utilized.
Feathers were attached to the foundation material either directly or indirectly through some intermediate element. Direct attachments were simple or spiral.
1. The simple attachment was applied to large feathers or bunches of small feathers by transverse turns around the quills with a thread or a fiber. 2. The spiral attachment consists of fixing a successive series of feathers by spiral turns of a continuous cord to a wooden rod or the narrow flat surface of a piece of thick sennit, or folded coconut-leaf stipule.
Indirect attachments may be divided into what may be arbitrarily defined as holders and carriers.
Figure 30.—Feather headband (British Mus., Hervey Is. case, no number): foundation band (1), 530 mm. long, composed of two thick pieces of sennit braid, 11 mm. wide by 4 mm. thick, with bunches of split black feathers attached between braids, and foundation braids covered at sides and below with white tapa; the two ends free of feathers completely covered with cloth; one end (2) thickened by doubling braid back for 90 mm.; ends of lashing cord (3) left long for tying together.
1. Holders are single elements to which feathers are attached and these elements bearing the feathers are attached to some part of the headdress. The elements may consist of fiber, cord, braid, or a wooden stick. 2. Carriers are compound holders which may be made of coir in loops, rings, or rosettes and wood in bars to which holders are attached, or clamps consisting of two bars between which the holders are held.
The various forms of attachment will be illustrated with the headdresses.
Figure 31.—Feather technique. a, double-ended feather holder: short length of two-ply coir cord (1) with tufts of split black feathers (2, 2) tied to each end with transverse turns of single coir fiber (3, 3) in which commencement end near feather quill is buried, finishing end passes back under last two turns and is pulled taut; feather tufts project beyond lashing for 60 mm. b, cord holders (1) are bent in U-shape and placed between two elements of braid foundation (4) so that feather tufts all emerge from same edge; thin cord (5) run spirally around both foundation braids and between pairs of tufts to bind braids together and fasten feather holders in position. c, stick rosette: short stick (1) with thin cord (2) tied near top (3) with feathers (4) arranged in circle with quills against stick; cord (2) takes spiral turn around quills to fasten them to stick; first few circles formed of short whole feathers. d, view from above, showing end of stick (1) and short feathers (4) forming rosette. e, after addition of short feathers (4), long split black feathers (5) are attached to stick by continuous spiral turns of lashing cord; after last circle of feathers, cord is continued in close spiral turns (6) to cover in and fix quills, thus forming a stick rosette; lower seized end of rosette is placed between two foundation braids (7) and fixed by spiral turns of cord (8), as in b; stick rosette projects above foundation braids for about 55 mm. f, covering of foundation braids: white tapa cloth (9) is folded to width requisite to cover foundation braids (7) below and at two sides up to emergence of feather tufts (3) and stick rosettes (5); cloth is kept in position by a thread (10) of bast fiber which is wound in wide spiral turns around cloth-covered foundation; at free ends cloth is wrapped completely around foundation braids. g, ring carrier with 8 holders is made with a long strip of coir fibers (1) to form foundation strip. Another strip of fibers of equal thickness is doubled around foundation strip and twisted into two-ply cord (2) which ends in an overhand knot. Seven such cords are formed close together around middle part of foundation strip. The two ends of foundation strip are brought together and twisted into eighth cord (5) and so form a ring from which the 8 cords radiate. Long, split black feathers (3) are then applied to cord with quill ends close to ring and fixed with transverse turns (4) of thread in same manner as feather tufts in double-ended holders. The eight cords are treated in similar manner, outer free ends (6) of cords being mingled with feathers. h, foundation ring (1) is compressed so that tufts are arranged into two sets of four, as shown. Another ring carrier with six holders was similarly treated to form two sets of three. i, the set of eight holders (6) is laid longitudinally on braid foundation (8) behind line of other holders and stick rosettes, and a set of six holders (7) is laid upon it. A thick bast cord is passed in two turns (9) over middle of the two ring carriers and around foundation braid to secure carriers in position, being done before tapa-cloth wrapping is applied. Six double sets of ring carriers, each double set consisting of 14 feather-bearing holders, are distributed evenly along band.
Coir Caps from Atiu
Figure 32.—Feather head band (British Mus., 9950): a, foundation band (1) covered with thick white tapa making band about 40 mm. thick; from between edges of tapa wrapping, sennit braid holders project, each carrying about 16 split black feathers averaging 110 mm. in length and lashed to ends of braid holders with thin strips of bast fiber (2); holders are set close together throughout circumference of band; interspersed with feather holders are strips of thick stiff white tapa about 140 mm. long and 18 mm. wide; red tail feathers (3) of tropic bird are also inserted through cleft between edges of tapa wrapping and project in horizontal rays for 300 mm. beyond outer edge (4) of split black feathers; ends of band tied together with fine sennit braid and from this junction (5) a number of strips of white tapa (6) 410 mm. long are attached by same lashing; inside measurements of band as shown are 235 mm. long by 140 mm. wide. b, tropic bird tail feathers fixed in pairs with bent piece of coconut leaflet midrib (1) used as a clamp about 46 mm. from ends of quills (2). c, leaflet clamp (1) 16 mm. long is lashed to feather stems by diagonal turns of fine thread (3) which at open end of clamp hang down (4); quill ends of feathers are stuck back into foundation band in part between edges of wrapping cloth, and long threads are tied back to lashing cord of wrapping to prevent feathers from working loose. d, lashing of tapa wrapping: tapa cloth (1) is wrapped around foundation band (2), and the two edges (3, 4) come up on either side of braid holders (5); wrapping is kept in place by transverse turns (6) of a fine human hair braid less than 1 mm. in width, which passes around foundation band and through the two flaps of cloth; on one side free part of hair braid is knotted around standing part (7) after passing through flaps, and then runs horizontally (8) to next pair of holes (9) and so continue throughout. e, opposite side from d, showing transverse turns (6) of hair braid, also occasional turns of fine sennit braid (10) which disappears through holes in cloth wrapping.
Ei taka'a rere, By the tied on helmet, Ei mata ka'ipa'ipa, By quick, alert eyes, E rauka ai te 'au. Victory is procured.
The word rere (first line) is a local term for the sennit braid used to tie on the helmet.
Cook (20, p. 194) refers to coir caps seen on Atiu as follows: "… Others wore conical caps of cocoa-nut core, neatly woven with small beads, made of a shelly substance."
Figure 33.—Coiled-work sennit caps: a, height, 222 mm.; inside diameter at rim about 180 mm. Foundation coil consists of a coir cord 4 mm. thick and the coiling element of sennit 4 mm. wide, coils after covering with the coiling braid being about 7 mm. deep. At rim, coiling is reversed for a couple of turns (1, 1) on either side to leave a gap in front 135 mm. wide, and foundation coil ends (2) on one side of opening. A pattern is worked with black dye in radiating and zigzag bands (3) above and lozenges (4) below. Pieces of braid 4 mm. wide are attached to rim by a running noose (5) around two lowest coils on one side and around lowest coil (6) on other; ends for tying under chin are joined with a weaver's knot (Bishop Mus., C2848). b, height 177 mm.; inside diameter at rim about 185 mm. This cap is older and stiffer than a, the foundation coil consisting of fine sennit, coir fibers, and a piece of vine which make it 6 mm. thick. Coiling element is fine sennit 2 mm. wide, and this makes the coiled work much neater than that of a. At rim, the foundation ends (1) without being reversed to form a front gap. (A pattern worked with black dye is too faded to distinguish.) A piece of sennit (2, 2) is run over top of cap forward of apex and down each side, being fixed at lower end with transverse turns (3) of fine coir cord which also includes a vertical strip of wood (4) 38 mm. long and 5 mm. wide on one side, the other having dropped out. Upper part of braid is fixed to cap by fine coir thread running up on inside and passing at intervals between coils to pass through a strand of outer sennit and then reenter cap through same inter-coil space. Lower ends of braid hang down for tying under chin. A piece of braid (5) running around outer side of rim is fastened to lower coil by turns of a single coir fiber (Bishop Mus., C2849).
The presence of beads made of shell is extremely interesting, for the only other place in Polynesia where shell beads are recorded is Tonga. In Tonga, beads made of white shell and coconut shell were used extensively to decorate a particular kind of basket and certain ornaments made of coir twined work. I saw several coir caps in Atiu, but none of them were decorated with shell beads. The technique of making shell beads must have been abandoned in Atiu soon after European contact.
Two caps, which I obtained in Atiu in 1929, are in Bishop Museum (pl. 6, D). They are made with a coiled technique of continuous figure-of-eight turns with a sennit coiling element around the adjacent turns of the foundation coil. The caps are without feather ornamentation, but one of them has a geometrical pattern painted or dyed in black (fig. 33).
The coiling commenced at the top and the cap was shaped by altering the relative position of the new coil to the preceding coil. At the top the coils were side by side but a downward slope was formed by slightly lowering each new coil. When the required diameter of the top of the cap was reached, the sides were defined by the new coils changing position to below the preceding coil. The coiling usually proceeded from left to right, but one of the caps was worked from right to left. For the technique of the close figure-of-eight coil, see figure 34.
Figure 34.—Coiling technique: a, foundation is coiled around its end (1) to form a circle; coiling element (2) is fixed to end, brought over it and under adjacent part of foundation, where it makes a turn (3) over outer coil and under inner circle; it is passed over inner circle, under outer coil, and makes a turn (4) back over outer coil to pass behind inner coil and so continues figure-of-eight turns as shown, b, shows attachment of outer or lower length (2) of foundation to coil (1) already formed with alternating figure-of-eight turns by coiling element (6). c, shows foundation (3) being attached to last completed coil (2), coiling element (6) having passed through spaces between turns made around coils 1 and 2. d, shows actual appearance of coiled work when turns are drawn taut and close together.
Coiled Cap from Rarotonga
A coiled cap in the British Museum is labeled "War cap, Rarotonga Id." The type was referred to by Williams (81, p. 149) in describing an assembly of people offering food to the gods on a marae in Rarotonga: "… while many were dressed as warriors, with large cap, adorned with white cowrie shells and birds' feathers."
The cap differs from the Atiuan caps in being higher with a pointed apex provided with a loop of sennit. The technique is coiled work in continuous figure-of-eight, in which the foundation coil appears to be coir cord and the coiling element a coir cord in two colors and 2 mm. thick. The coiling is poorly done in places (fig. 35).
Figure 35.—Rarotongan war cap. a, back view: rim projects downward (1) for greater part of circumference and leaves gap of 172 mm.; height of cap, 320 mm.; diameter of rim, 198 mm.; loop of sennit (2) 6 mm. wide is formed by doubling a length and knotting two ends together with an overhand knot, and pushing doubled end through top of cap from inside so that thick knot prevents end from slipping through; length of loop, 80 mm. b, front view: shows four bunches of feathers (3) attached to cap, two cowrie shells (4) attached below them, and a streamer of feathers (5) hanging down from side (British Mus., Christy coll.).
The gap in the rim is on the side opposite the feather ornamentation and presumably to the back. The method of forming the gap and attaching the two white cowrie shells is shown in figure 36.
The four feather bunches on the front of the cap are black feathers arranged in rosettes (fig. 37, c) by the use of two ring carriers with the feather holders radiating in a circle. The lower carrier has 12 holders, and the second, with 9 holders, is placed above it. A cord with a feather tuft at one end has the free end pushed down through the open rings of both carriers and, when page 88drawn taut, a perfect rosette is formed. The free end of the cord is then passed through the cap material, and the friction of the rough sennit material is sufficient to keep the rosette in position without tying. Each of the four rosettes is formed and attached in a similar way (fig. 37, a, b).
Figure 36.—Rim gap and shell fixation: a, last complete coil (1) works from left to right, and when next coil reaches point 2 on left, it is reversed and continues until it reaches point 3 on right, where it is also reversed; coil is continued until it appears on left (4) immediately below first reverse, where it reverses direction to appear on right (5) below second reverse, where it is reversed and ends at 6. b, white cowrie shell (1) with two holes (2, 3) drilled through it; a fairly thick cord with an overhand knot at one end passes through holes up to knots, which act as stoppers; free ends of cords are passed through cap material (4) from without, pushed through again from within, and a third time from without; cords are drawn taut to bring shell against outside of cap and free slack (5) of cords left hanging within; the triple passing of cords through stiff cap material prevents them from working loose.
The feather streamer (fig. 35, b, 5) is a bast cord with the upper end attached to the cap by pushing the end through the coiled work to the left of the rosettes and knotting it on the inside. Split and unsplit black feathers are used in five ring feather carriers with 6 to 9 holders, each of which is spaced along the cord which passes through the ring and is stoppered with an overhand knot below each carrier to prevent its slipping down on the cord (fig. 37, d).
Rarotongan Chief's Headdress
The only coir cap now found in Rarotonga is one used by the ariki chiefs of the Makea family. The feather framework and the feather attachments are so recent that the technical details may be disregarded. The cap has been in the possession of the Makea family for some generations but the feathers have been changed for the installation of the new ariki. This has been figured (70, p. 92), but it is reproduced here to complete the series (fig. 38 and pl. 7, C).
The coir cap resembles that of the Rarotongan cap in shape and in the use of a sennit loop pushed through the small opening in the apex, but it differs in the introduction of a different technique in oblique rows. It resembles the Maori two-pair interlocking weft used in weaving garments (69, p. 66), but this is probably due to a single-pair twine which reverses the twist in alternate rows. The technique also resembles that used in the Atiu sling (fig. 188, a). page 89The lower part consists of horizontal coiled work of the same technique as the Rarotongan war cap. The rim also ends with a downward flap leaving a gap in the rim circumference.
Figure 37.—Ring carrier and feather streamer technique. a, ring carrier with nine holders: a long length of coir fiber (10) forms foundation ring around which another strip of coir fiber is twisted into a cord (1); end of cord holder is doubled back (2) and a bunch of feathers tied to it (3); eight holders are formed and the two ends of foundation strip (10) are twisted together to form a ninth holder; closing of last holder formed foundation ring (11) through which a cord was subsequently passed. In the figure the central ring is drawn large to show technique. Feather tufts are attached to all nine holders in manner shown (3). b, formation of rosette: lower ring carrier (l) with 12 feather holders, upper ring carrier (2) with nine holders, and cord (3) with end tuft of feathers (4); cord passed down through ring opening of two carriers and drawn taut. c, appearance of rosette with central tuft (4) drawn taut through upper ring carrier (2) and lower ring carrier (1). d, feather streamer formed of a cord (1) 2 mm. thick and 238 mm. long, attached to coiled cap (2); first feather ring carrier (3) near feather rosette on cap; second ring carrier (4) near rim of cap; three other carriers (5, 6, 7) spaced along cord at intervals of 47 to 68 mm., the lowest (7) on end of cord.
Figure 38.—Rarotongan chief's headdress. a, side view of coir cap denuded of feathers: upper part (1) consists of oblique parallel rows of alternate black and natural brown coir work which meet in a middle vertical line (2) on each side (at the time of examination I had not had sufficient experience to work out the exact detail); lower part (3) consists of horizontal rows of eight coils with coiled work of the Atiu continuous figure-of-eight technique and two incomplete courses (4) leaving a gap; a coir cord (5) is pushed through hole at apex to form a loop. b, cap with feathers in position: cocks' plumage and red tail feathers of tropic bird are tied to a frame of light rods fastened to cap. A chin loop (6) is sewn to rim on either side.
Feather Headdress from Aitutaki
Aitutakians maintained that caps of coir fiber (pare kd'a) were formerly made on their island and that the technique was the same as that of Atiu (70, p. 91). They were decorated with feathers to form the headdress of a chief and were then termed pare kura (kura, red feathers). The feathers were said to have been obtained from the small island of Manuae, and all that could be remembered of the technique was that the feathers were sometimes tied to midribs of coconut leaflets which were attached to the coir caps.
Williams (81, p. 460) figured a headdress with the following description: "A cap from Aitutaki, worn formerly by the master of ceremonies at the native dances; but now, by the chief judge of the island." This headdress is now in the L.M.S. case in the British Museum (pl. 7, A) and was also figured by Edge-Partington (24, I-19-1). The figure and the description by Williams definitely settle the locality (fig. 39).
The feather decoration is attached to a large conical coir cap, 425 mm. high and 288 mm. in diameter at the rim. The technique is coiled work in continuouspage 91
Figure 39.—Aitutaki feather headdress. a, after Williams: 1, rim of coiled cap; 2, tiers of feathers; 3, tier of white feather bunches; 4, tiers of feathers; 5, tail feathers of tropic bird; 6, white feather bunches on sides; 7, tresses of human hair hanging down from back. b, same cap in British Museum: feather ornamentation disarranged from original technique by decay of wooden frame and cord lashings; 3, white feather bunches (some have fallen out); 5, tropic bird feathers showing attachment to clamp; 8, part of frame. c, back of cap: hair tresses (7) pushed aside to expose coiled work of conical apex (9).
Figure-of-eight, the coiling element being a coir cord less than 2 mm. thick worked over a foundation coil of coir material evidently in braid. The rim of the cap is furnished with a flap prolongation which is divided in the middle line (fig. 40).
A frame of slender wooden rods is lashed to the front of the cap, and the feathers in horizontal wooden clamps are attached to the frame in tiers (fig. 41)
The technique of the feather attachment is described according to the tiers numbered in figure 41, b.
The first tier (fig. 41, b, 1) consists of the small bright red feathers of the parakeet attached to the holders of ring carriers with the technique shown in figure 37, a. The ring carriers are clamped between transverse bars (fig. 42, d).page 92
Figure 41.—Frame and feather arrangement. a, frame: two main rods (1, 1) 56 mm. long and 10 mm. in diameter are tied to cap with cords (2, 2) passing through coiled cap and tied on inside, the rods inclined to meet in middle line above; two rods (3, 4) on either side are tied to mesial rods (1) by short crossbars (5) at lower ends and by longer crossbars (6) higher up; longitudinal rods are braced above by three additional crossbars (7); a mesial vertical rod (8) is fastened to back of cap just above mesial slit in flap by some spaced ties passing through coiled work; at top, a loop of strong vine (9) is lashed to posterior rod and other elements of frame. b, diagram of tiers of feathers: 1, bar of red feathers; 2, four rosettes of red feathers; 3, 4, red feathers; 5, parakeet tail feathers, with white feather rosette at each end; 6, bunches of white feathers; 7, longer bunches of split black feathers; 8, tropic bird feathers; 9, 10, additional tiers of tropic bird feathers.
Figure 42.—Feather attachment of lowest tier: a, bunch of five or six small red feathers tied together with transverse turns (1) of a fine filament of bast. b, cord holder of coir (2) twisted over a foundation strip of coir fiber (3) with free end doubled back; cord diameter 3 mm., total length of holder cord 67 mm. but end 24 mm. doubled back making length of holder 43 mm. c, bunches of red feathers (1) arranged around doubled end of holder (2) and tied with strip of bast (4). d, completed ring carriers. (5) with five or six holders held by a composite clamp with a front part (6) of two coconut leaflet midribs and a back part (7) of three midribs; carriers are so arranged and spaced that feather bunches form a continuous line, directed downward because the two parts of the clamp are on the same level; feather holders are kept in position by tying a thin cord (8) at one end and carrying it in wide spiral turns around the back of carriers with a couple of turns (9) in spaces between individual carriers or even between holders of same carriers. Total length of clamp is 370 mm. of which 290 mm. is occupied by feather holders, the free parts at each end being attached to vertical elements of frame (10).
The second tier (fig. 41, b, 2) is formed of four ring carriers each with nine holders rather thicker than those in the first tier but carrying similar bunches of small red feathers. Instead of the holders being spread out in line by clamping, the feather ends are bunched together to form beautiful rosettes, and the foundation ends of the carriers are pushed back between the lowest clamp bar and the clamp bar of the third tier immediately above. The carriers are attached to the bar above by a thread tied around the holders of the carrier (fig. 43, a).
The third tier (fig. 41, b, 3) is formed of ring carriers with small red parakeet feathers and with the feather bunches arranged in line in a composite leaflet midrib clamp in exactly the same manner as in the first tier, except that the two parts of the clamp are fixed one above the other so that the feather bunches are directed forward instead of downward (fig. 43).
Figure 43.—Arrangement and fixation of second and third tiers. a, side view: ring carrier (1) of second tier attached by thread (2) to clamp bar (3) of third tier which carries feather holders (4) with feather heads projecting forward. b, front view: feather rosette (1) formed by nine feather heads of one ring carrier, inserted in space between clamp bars of first and third tiers; feather heads (2) of third tier projecting forward from between upper (3) and lower (4) elements of composite clamp bar which is lashed (5) at either end to a vertical bundle (6) of coconut leaflet midribs which in turn is lashed (7) to a vertical element (8) of the frame; clamp (9) of lowest tier (10) is shown lashed (11) directly to frame rod (8); other ends of horizontal clamp are fixed in a similar manner, a vertical bundle of leaflet midribs being attached to frame on that side.
The fourth tier (fig. 41, b, 4) is a repetition of the third tier.
The fifth tier (fig. 41, b, 5) is composed of the longer tail or wing feathers of the parakeet and, because of the longer quills, they are attached directly to a composite midrib clamp bar without intermediate holders (fig. 44).
Figure 44.—Feather fixation of fifth tier: a, tail feathers (1) are fixed by their quills (2) between the two divisions of composite bar (3) by a thread (4) which makes two diagonal turns around bar to clamp each quill and a single spiral turn around bar in interval between spaced feathers. b, three sets of clamp bars are made and so arranged that feathers in two back bars (2, 3) fill in spaces between feathers of front bar (1) and so form a close row of feathers directed upward; the three clamps are fastened at ends to vertical bundle (5) of leaflet midribs.
The sixth tier (fig. 41, b, 6) consists of white curly feathers and white feathers speckled with black which are attached in larger heads to single coir cord holders. The holders are fastened in composite midrib clamps with the feather heads directed forward but, because the spiral thread around the clamp is decayed, many of the holders have become loose (fig. 45).
Figure 45.—Technique of sixth tier. a, coir cord (1) commenced by doubling strand of coir fiber at one end (2); thickness 5 mm., total length 130 mm. but length of 40 mm. doubled back (3). b, white curly feathers (4) arranged around doubled part of holder and lashed with bast fiber (5) in lower part and with additional tie of thread (6) above. c, feather heads (4) in rosette form facing forward, showing doubled end (7) of cord holder in center; holders clamped with composite midrib leaflet bar (8) which is fastened at ends to vertical bundle of leaflet midribs (9).
So far the bar clamps of the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth tiers are lashed at each end to the vertical bundles of leaflet midribs. It seems probable that the bar clamps were arranged in position and tied to the vertical bundles and that afterwards the two bundles were lashed to the wooden elements of the frame.
The seventh tier (fig. 41, b, 7) is composed of longer split black feathers tied to ring carriers in which the end holders are from 60 to 75 mm. in length. These are clamped in composite midrib bars which are tied at the outer ends to the outer vertical elements of the frame, the vertical bundles of leaflet midribs ending below. The bar clamp is on the same level as the first crossbar of the frame (fig. 41, a, 7). The bar clamp is 430 mm. long and the ends project beyond the frame.
The ninth tier (fig. 41, b, 9) consists of one composite clamp bar carrying tropic bird feathers, and it is tied to the frame 120 mm. above the previous paired bars.
The last and topmost tier (fig. 41, b, 10), about 100 mm. above the last bar, evidently carried tropic bird feathers, but they have fallen out and only the loosened twisted cord remains. This completed the arrangements on the front of the cap.
To the sides of the cap a vertical row of cord holders with white feathers (fig. 45) are attached to the frame in such a manner as to extend from the rim of the cap to the sixth tier carrying similar white feathers. Most of these have fallen out, but the original pattern was evidently depicted in Williams' drawing (fig. 39, a, 6). Above these again a few lengths of thick sennit decorated with tropic bird feathers are attached to the sides of the frame (fig. 46, b-d).page 95
Figure 46.—Feather fixation of eighth tier (a) and side ornaments (b-d). a, clamp bar consisting of two leaflet midribs (1) in front and five at back (2) between which tropic bird feathers are arranged in groups with quill ends (3) cut off and projecting 15 mm. below bar; lower ends of feathers tied together (4) below bar and some tied in twos (5) above bar; one group wrapped with bast fiber (6) above bar with small red and yellow parakeet feathers (7) fastened by wrapping to feather group; groups of feathers arranged along bar at intervals and elements of bar clamped together by cord (8) which makes spiral turns along bar to fix feathers in position; bar is 375 mm. long, and feathers project above it for 120 mm. b, thick braid 55 mm. long with tropic bird feathers (2) with cut-off quill ends laid obliquely along it, commencing at upper end; top feathers fixed by transverse turns of cord (3) which is carried down to fix next feather and so to lowest, where a group is fixed in same manner; some of these are used in horizontal bar clamps. c, thick braid (1) with tropic bird feathers (2) attached to each end with close transverse turns (3); ornaments hang by middle of braid so as to form a curved ornament. d, cord (1) with feathers (2) attached at intervals by similar transverse turns.
Figure 47.—Hair attachment: a, long tress of black hair about 370 mm. long is seized at scalp end with a single coir fiber, commencing at 1, by bending fiber upward and covering it with successive transverse turns to fix it; when seizing reaches point 2, end of tuft is bent around to lie against standing part, and transverse turns continue around both parts and finish off by pushing end of fiber (3) back under two lowest turn; this provides eyelet hole (4). b, hair tufts are threaded on a cord (6) passed through eyelet holes.
Feather Headdress, Probably Atiuan
A headdress in the British Museum (no. 120) is labeled "Dancer's cap, feathers and shells (Society Islands), London Missionary Society." The same headdress is figured by Edge-Partington (24, I-19-3), who associated it with the previous headdress from Aitutaki as "Caps formerly worn by the master of ceremonies at the native dances, but now by the chief judge of the island. Vide Williams Mssy. Enterprises, p. 460." Williams' remarks as quoted applied only to the headdress in figure 39, a and cannot be applied to a headdress he neither figured nor described. The Society Islands as the source of the headdress is more than doubtful, its possible locality will be discussed after an analysis of the technique. The headdress is magnificent in its great height and elaborate setting of bright colored feathers. (See figure 48 and plate 7, D.)
Figure 48.—Feather headdress (British Mus., no. 120); total height from cap rim to top of feather work 1,020 mm. a, front: cap may be divided into four sections: 1, lower quadrangular area covered with closely set small red parakeet feathers, with a white cowrie shell at each lower corner, and sides with small red parakeet feathers on holders; 2, second area covered with small red parakeet feathers on holders and a white cowrie shell in middle; 3, third wider area with split black feathers on holders; 4, top narrow area with split black feathers on holders attached to a central rod; tufts of hair (5) and stipule band (6) show at sides. b, back: areas numbered same as in front but with lowest area covered by tufts of human hair (5) and junction with second area covered by a transverse band (6), now loose, covered with red and yellow feathers. c, side view: same numbering.
The feathers are attached to a wooden frame fastened to a coir conical cap of coiled work in continuous figure-of-eight turns (fig. 49, a). The wooden framework, owing to the fragility of the rods and the lashings, could not be examined too closely but the main features were determined (fig. 49, b.). The attachment of feathers to folded strips of coconut-leaf stipules forming additional uprights and cross pieces is shown in figure 49, c.page 97
Figure 49.—Coir cap and frame. a, coiled cap: foundation coil seems to be lengths of sennit braid and coiling element of sennit braid, making an average thickness of 8 mm. for coils; direction of coiling left to right, ending at rim in a flap (1, 1) formed by two reverses with end lashed to coil above at 2; diameter at rim 250 mm., height 256 mm.; concavo-convex contour of sides apparently due to weight of central rod in frame which has pushed apex down slightly and decreased height of cap. b, frame: lateral rods (1, 1) lashed to cap by cords passing around them and through cap; rod diameters 8 to 12 mm.; vertical rods (2, 2) also lashed to back of cap and nearer to middle line than front lateral rods; hoops (3, 3) of vine 5 mm. thick passed around vertical rods at various levels and tied to them; disposition of other oblique rods to strengthen frame could not be distinguished accurately. A piece of vine also attached to rim at back. Top ends of vertical rods bent down (4, 4). A central rod (5) 20 mm. thick and 764 mm. long inserted by a pointed end into top of cap, but its fixation to frame could not be made out without endangering feather attachments. A thin bar of wood (6) is lashed transversely to upright rods (1, 1). Lengths of folded coconut-leaf stipule (kaka) 18 mm. wide and 11 mm. thick used to form additional uprights (7, 7), and longer one on right bent to form an upper cross piece (8). Another folded piece of stipule 14 mm. wide, 11 mm. thick, and 285 mm. long used as a lower cross piece (9) and lashed at either end to lateral rods. c, stipule uprights and cross pieces: covered with small red and yellow parakeet feathers before being attached to cap; thin thread of bast (1) tied to one end of folded stipule (2); feathers in small bunches laid in row (3) on front surface of stipule and thread passed from left to right over quills (4); thread carried around back in spiral to follow same technique with next row of feathers which cover quills and thread of preceding row.
The technique of feather attachment in the lowest rectangular area is shown in figure 50.
The second area (fig. 48, a, 2) is covered by small red parakeet feathers tied in bunches to the holders of ring carriers of the same type as those used on the sides of the lowest area. The holders, however, are attached to a single bar which thus differs from the composite clamp of Aitutaki. The whole space is filled in with these horizontal bars with the feather heads directed forward and the ends of the bars tied to the vertical elements of the frame. The area is 280 mm. deep and 280 mm. wide at the bottom, diminishing to 260 mm. at the top. In the center of the area a single white cowrie is attached to the sennit cap in the same way as the two lower ones. The single bar attachment is shown in figure 51.page 98
Figure 50.—a, feather technique of lowest area: 1, quadrangular area; 2, transverse stipule bar along cap rim with red feathers attached by continuous spiral (fig. 49, c); some feathers fallen out exposing spiral turns of fixation thread; 3, white cowrie shells each fixed to cap by two knotted cords (as in fig. 36, b); 4, side areas filled in with ring carriers (fig. 37, a) with holders of small red parakeet feathers attached to lateral rods of frame. b, knot technique for attaching red feather bunches in area a, 1 to background of netting: feather bunch (1) of 6 to 8 feathers placed against a net mesh (2) while bast thread (3) passes through net mesh and around feather quill in an overhand knot. c, knot in b drawn taut. d, technique of quadrangular area: a thin piece of white tapa (4) is fitted to area with fine netting (2) laid over it and fixed to tapa by stitches (5) here and there; feather bunches (1) then fastened to netting by thread (3) in manner shown in b; feather bunches tied about 4 to 5 mm. apart, and having a lateral spread of 11 or 12 mm. they cover interspaces; feathers project 9 mm. above fixation thread and 4 mm. below it; feathers fixed in rows, and each succeeding row covers quills and lashing thread of preceding row; technique forms a smooth red surface, the area covered being 250 mm. wide at bottom, 210 mm. at top, and 153 mm. in depth.
Figure 51.—Single bar technique. a, ring carrier (1) with six coir cord holders so arranged on single wooden bar (2) that all feather heads (3) form an even line; holders kept in position by a cord (4) which, after being fixed at one end, is stretched over holders with an overhand knot (5) around bar in each space between holders; holders from next carrier dealt with similarly and holders of successive carriers until bar is fully occupied. b, bar is then rotated to face feather heads (3) toward front, and cords of bar tied to a vertical element (6) of frame.
To the side of the second area, ring carriers are attached to the frame. The feather heads are composed of the stiff black and red tail and wing feathers of the parakeet with the yellow tips cut off. Ring carriers with similar feathers are also used on the back of the first and second areas.
The third area (fig. 48, a, 3) is slightly wider than that below it, because the vertical rods of the frame bend over and outward (fig. 49, b, 4). It has a lower width of 300 mm. and a depth of 130 mm. The area is covered with split black feathers attached to the four holders of looped carriers which are tied by the loops to adjacent parts of the looped-over frame (fig. 52).page 99
Figure 52.—Looped feather carrier: a short length of thin coir cord about 1 mm. thick has a bunch of four split black feathers about 90 mm. long tied to each end with a single coir fiber; the two feather heads (1, 2) so formed are crossed so that cord (5) forms a loop with an overlap of about 6 mm.; a few coir fibers about 34 mm. long are doubled around overlapping part of cord and twisted into a cord (3) to form a holder; same is repeated with another holder (4) so that loop carrier is completed with four holders; patent loop serves for the attachment of a tying cord.
The top area is formed by the central rod which ascends to a height of 540 mm. above the bent-over part of the other rods. Throughout its length loop carriers with split black feathers of the same type as shown in figure 52 are attached to the central rod. At the very top, straight cord carriers of eight holders with heads composed of narrow black feathers with tropic bird feathers are strung on a thicker cord and tied to the central rod (fig. 53).
Figure 53.—Straight cord carrier: long thin coir cords with tufts of narrow black fathers (5) lashed with usual transverse turns (6) to ends; cords (4) doubled (1) around an attachment cord (2) so that feather heads are all together; the eight cords are seized (3) for some part of their course as shown; in figure, five holders are shown but other three must be imagined, as they are concealed at back; some feather heads include single tropic bird feathers (7).
On the back of the cap, a net of sennit two-ply cord is attached at the level of the upper border of the lowest red area hanging down to just below the rim of the cap. Tufts of human hair with seized eyelet holes are arranged on a two-ply cord and strung across the net. The ends of the tufts hang down for about 100 mm. below the rim of the cap (fig. 48).
An ornamental band consisting of five longitudinal folded strips of coconutleaf stipule about 4 mm. thick and 405 mm. long are joined together to give a page 100total width of 59 mm. at the ends and 71 mm. in the middle. Each strip is covered on the outer surface with small red and yellow parakeet feathers attached by a continuous spiral thread (fig. 49, c). The yellow feathers are attached in one or two rows to form narrow bands at spaced intervals and give the whole band an attractive appearance. The individual strips are kept close together by threads passing transversely across the band alternately above and below the strips composing it. The band is attached to the cap on one side at the level of the posterior net attachment. In front of the attached end of the band are five tufts of yellow feathers. As an identical group is attached in a similar position on the opposite side, it is evident that the free end of the band was attached originally to that side so that it formed a highly decorative band across the back of the cap and covered the net junction (fig. 48, b,6 and c,6).
The use of a continuous figure-of-eight coil favors the belief that the headdress is from the Cook Islands. The headdress is distinguished from the others described by folded strips of coconut leaf stipule on which small red parakeet feathers are fixed to the exposed surface by a direct spiral technique (fig. 49, c). Furthermore, the band which passes around the back of the headdress consists of a number of these strips held side by side by spaced rows of thread which cross them transversely. The technique of attaching small red parakeet feathers to one surface of a strip of material by a spiral thread occurs on single strips of thick sennit attached to a wooden god from Atiu (fig. 216, g) and to several strips held side by side in two other gods from Atiu (figs. 218, 219). In one of these gods, coconut-leaf stipule (kaka) is folded around lengths of sennit to provide a foundation for red feathers. Thus the appearance, material, and technique are practically identical. As this technique has not been observed elsewhere in the Cook Islands, I think the headdress comes from the same locality as the gods, namely Atiu.
Feather Headdress, Probably Rarotongan
A coiled coir cap surmounted by an extensive framework covered with black feathers is thus labeled in the British Museum: "Tahitian Group. Headdress of Feathers worn by Chief Mourner. Rev. John Williams". The headdress was figured by Edge-Partington (24, I-28-1), who quoted the locality and function given by the British Museum. A mistake is apparent, for the full mourners' dresses of Tahiti in the British Museum and the Pitt-River's Museum, Oxford, are complete without any such headdress. The elaborate framework of wooden rods and the lashings were too fragile to be handled sufficiently to obtain accurate details. The headdress and an approximate diagram of the wooden frame are shown in figure 54 and plate 7, B.
The coiling element in the cap is a coir cord, and the foundation element is of coir twist Or braid, the cap being fairly flexible. The neck flap apparently was formed of one reverse.page 101
The black feathers are split and attached to loop holders as shown in figure 54, c. They are tied to the frame with threads passing through the loops.
A deep net made of bast fiber cord is hung over the back to support cords carrying feather bunches that are seized to form eyelet holes in the same manner as the hair tufts used in other headdresses. At the side of the net are coir carriers supporting feathers, but at the time of examination I did not distinguish between ring and loop carriers.
The cuckoo feathers at the sides of the rim (fig. 54, a, 3) are lashed with cord to coir cord carriers that appeared to be of the ring type.
Figure 54.—Feather headdress (British Mus., L.M.S. case), a, headdress: 1, coiled cap showing one edge of rim; 2, large triangular frame covered with black feathers; 3, large bunches of feathers of cuckoo tied on either side of cap rim; 4, streamers of Black feathers tied to cord; 5, piece of tapa cloth tied to cap rim. b, wooden frame: 1, front median rod 7 mm. thick lashed securely to cap by cord passing through coiled work; 2, back median rod 9 mm. thick, lashed to back of cap; 3, 3, lateral rods lashed at lower ends to cap; 4, top crossbar; 5, lowest crossbar 390 mm. long lashed to lateral rods and front median rod; 6, second crossbar 545 mm. long lashed in similar way as 5. A number of other parallel crossbars and vertical rods entered into frame construction to, brace frame and provide places upon which to hang feather carriers. c, loop holder: cord, doubled to form loop (1) with feathers (2) tied to ends by usual transverse lashing (3).
The streamers that hang below the cuckoo feathers (fig. 54, a, 4) are composed of split black feathers on ring carriers that are hung on a cord. The technique resembles that of the streamer in the Rarotongan war cap (fig. 37, d).
The tapa cloth is hung from the rim in such a manner as to cover the lower part of the face when the headdress is worn. It was probably this feature that led to the belief that the headdress was worn by the chief mourner in Tahiti. The appearance of the conical cap and the addition of a wooden frame conform to the general principles of Cook Islands technique. The pattern of the cloth (show in figure 28, d) closely resembles the pattern on the cloth wrapping page 102(fig. 28, c) on a Rarotongan god; this is evidence that the headdress also belongs to Rarotonga.
Cook (20, p. 210) speaking of the people of Hervey Island (Manuae) who came off in canoes, says "a fine cap of red feathers was seen lying in one of the canoes." The Aitutaki people told me that red feathers were obtained from Manuae, and it is evident that the local people also used them to make headdresses.
The distribution of coir caps and differences in the feather decoration applied to them is discussed on pp. 434-438.
In Mangaia, masks were made for use in dances at festivals. They were formed of a framework of bamboo or cane strips covered with tapa and were made in two shapes, conical and rectangular. A conical mask in Bishop Museum (6308) is formed of a lower hoop of split bamboo 24 mm. wide with the ends tied together to form a circle 185 mm. in inside diameter. Six lengths of split bamboo about 9 mm. wide and 535 mm. long are evenly spaced and tied by their lower ends to the lower hoop. At 340 mm. from the hoop, the six strips are brought together and tied to form a cone. The remaining upper parts are lashed together at intervals to form a central rod projecting upward from the apex of the cone. To either side of the hoop, a curved rod is attached to form a downward extension which is 190 mm. deep in the middle line. The conical frame is covered with tapa cloth, which is shaped to fit, attached to the hoop by stitches of hibiscus bast and sewn together at the back in the middle vertical line with similar material. Another piece of shaped tapa is sewn to the cone cover above the hoop and stretched down over the lower curved rod to which it is stitched. The curved lower extension forms the face cover, and the tapa is cut with elliptical openings for the eyes and mouth. A strip of plain tapa 260 mm. wide is cut into narrow outer strips about 180 mm. long and inner short strips 50 mm. long which leaves a connecting uncut strip of 30 mm. The double fringed strip is stitched to the edge of the curved face section so that the long strip represents a continuous face fringe of whiskers and beard. A strip of hibiscus bast is decorated with long strips of hibiscus bast attached closely together by doubling them in the middle, passing the loop over the supporting strand, and pulling the ends through the loop. The supporting strand is stitched at the back to the tapa cover near the edge of the hoop and the attached strips of bast hang down, like hair, to a length of 380 mm. Both the cone cover and the face are painted in black with various motifs that are rather coarsely done. The upper rod has some tapa wrapped around it and it is ornamented with tufts of hibiscus bast. The Bishop Museum mask has appendages at either side formed of flattened long narrow triangles kept in shape by three rods of split bamboo and with tufts of hibiscus bast around the apices. These project page 103upward in the position of ears, but they are evidently extras as they do not occur in the conical masks shown in plate 2, B.
The other shape is formed by upper and lower hoops connected by strips of bamboo. When viewed from the front, they appear rectangular as opposed to the triangular appearance of the more general cone-shaped type.
For further discussion, see p. 506.
Apart from the two headbands, the Cook Islands headdresses are characterized by coir caps in which the coiling technique by continuous figure-of-eight turns is a constant feature. The coir caps were present in Rarotonga, Aitutaki, and Atiu and probably also in Mauke and Mitiaro, for these islands are close to Atiu. Evidently they were not made in Mangaia for native informants denied their use and no specimens seem to have been collected by the missionaries. In addition, however, to the feather headband described for Mangaia (fig. 32), Gill (33, p. 27) describes more elaborate headdresses that were made by two fugitives living in the makatea raised reef.
Two grand headdresses were subsequently made of feathers. The shape was conical, and bore the name of pare piki. This was the nearest approximation to our "crown" existing in their language. Captain Cook refers to these head-dresses of gay feathers interwoven with fine sennit. The finishing touch was the insertion of a number of the long red tail-feathers of the tropic bird. Such a prize was considered to be well worth fighting for.
The conical shape and the Cook reference to the feathers being "interwoven with fine sennit" imply that a conical coiled cap was used as a foundation, but Gill is in error in quoting Cook. The only reference (20, p. 171) Cook made to the headdresses of the Mangaians was that they wore white (bark cloth) wrappers around their heads not unlike a turban or, in some instances, a high conical cap. The conical shape of the feather headdress was probably due to a wooden framework similar to that used in the bark-cloth masks of Mangaia.
The building up of a wooden framework on the outside of the coir caps to Support the feather work was a characteristic feature of the more elaborate headdresses.
A prominent technique in the feather work itself was the formation of ring carriers. These were used singly in the streamers of the Rarotongan war cap (fig; 37. c). They were clamped into line in the headdresses of Aitutaki (fig. 42 d) and Atiu (fig. 51, a) and tied down to a sennit band in an unlocalized headband (fig. 31, g-i). The most beautiful results, however, were obtained by combining a number to form rosettes (fig. 37, b). Loop holders (fig. 54, c) and loop carriers (fig. 52) were not used as much as the ring carriers.
Other technical points to be noted were the use of coconut-leaflet midribs to form clamps and side supports in Aitutaki and the attachment of the clamp ends to an element of the wooden framework.