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National Museum of Australia

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Collection Explorer

4

Dhari (headdress) by George Nona, 2007

2007.0103.0002

On display

Dhari (headdress) by George Nona, 2007

Object information

Physical description

A Dhari headdress consisting of a row of white feathers attached to an arch shaped centre piece. The centre piece consists of rows of wood wrapped in twine and bent into an arch shape covered in red ochre. Two flat pieces of mottled brown shell are tied to two arch openings. Clusters of three white shells are attached to each of the lower sides, to the apex of the arch and one in the centre support. Dark and light brown feathers are attached to the bottom of each side of the arch. The top of the white feathers are trimmed into a geometric pattern, except the two lowest and the two feathers positioned at the apex of the arch, which are not trimmed.

Statement of significance

This collection consists of two dharis and two turtleshell masks made by George Nona from Badu Island in the Torres Strait. Turtleshell masks form an important component of the traditional beliefs of Torres Strait Islanders and each type of mask had a name, either for the ceremony or its use in ceremony. Dhari headdresses were worn by men during warfare but are now worn during dance and ceremony.Today, the dhari has become an icon of the Torres Strait, featured on the flag and worn in all parts of the Torres Strait.

George Nona is known for his research into traditional dharis including photographic archives and museum collections. The knowledge of Elders is also important to him in the development of skills required for making culturally appropriate and informed masks and headdresses. This material illustrates the protocols, practices and heritage of Torres Strait Islander culture and keeps alive the traditions handed down for generations. Turtle shell was a prized resource, easily obtained in the Torres Strait. However, very few turtle shell masks are now made: due to declining numbers some species of turtle have been placed on the endangered species list and protected by legislation.

Physical description

On display at the National Museum of Australia.

Object information

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