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National Museum of Australia

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Collection Explorer

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Mornington Island headdress made by Dick Roughsey and worn by him at Keith and Elsie de Witte's wedding in 1955

2007.0045.0001

Mornington Island headdress made by Dick Roughsey and worn by him at Keith and Elsie de Witte's wedding in 1955

Object information

Physical description

Mornington Island ceremonial headdress, made from hair and plant fibre which coils around a base made from bark. The base is circular and gradually narrows to form a cone-like shape. Delicate brown feathers are attached at the tip of the cone, and the surface of the cone has a painted triangular section which is white with red edges.

Statement of significance

The Keith and Elsie de Witte collection comprises one Mornington Island headdress made by Dick Roughsey and two Dick Roughsey bark paintings. The headdress is in excellent condition for its age and the bark paintings are also in good condition.

Keith de Witte (1928-2007) and Dick Roughsey (c.1920-1985) (Goobalathaldin) met at Karumba Lodge, then run by the Ansett company, in the Gulf of Carpentaria in the 1950s. This is significant as it was at Karumba Lodge that Roughsey was introduced to Percy Tresize. Roughsey and Tresize were to collaborate together for much of their lives, producing among other things a series of children's books, including 'The Rainbow Serpent' (1975) which won a Children's Picture Book of the Year Award. The headdress, bark paintings and photographs from the de Witte's wedding on Mornington Island in 1955 are significant as they illustrate the story of a friendship across cultures. The Lardil influences on the de Witte's wedding ceremony held on Mornington Island provide a snapshot of cultural continuation on a mission in northern Australia in the 1950s.

Object information

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