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Maori

Treasure box (papahou) c.1953-4

Wood, feathers, haliotis shell | RCIN 94943

Grand Vestibule, Windsor Castle

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  • A hand-carved rectangular Maori treasure box (papahou) with lid. The box is decorated with Maori masks in profile at either end, each with protruding tongues and haliotis-shell eyes. The lid is carved with sinuous figures with elongated heads and open mouths revealing their teeth. Inside is a black hand-stitched head tie with a red, yellow and white chevron design and two black feathers (probably huia feathers).

    Treasure boxes were traditionally hung on cords from the rafters of the house, and for this reason they often had elaborate carving on their undersides. On this box, the pattern on the lid is repeated underneath. Boxes like this were used to store ornaments, feathers and other precious objects owned by high-ranking individuals.

    The feathers are traditionally worn as a hair adornment by Maori of high status. They are considered tapu (sacred) because of their contact with the heads of important individuals.
    Provenance

    Presented to Queen Elizabeth II by the Maori of New Zealand at Rotorua in 1954, during her tour of the Commonwealth.

  • Medium and techniques

    Wood, feathers, haliotis shell

  • Alternative title(s)

    Papahou

  • Place of Production

    New Zealand