Menu toggle

National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer


Mayngu Dhoeri pearlshell headdress made by Sipau Audi Gibuma


Mayngu Dhoeri pearlshell headdress made by Sipau Audi Gibuma

Object information

Physical description

A large, decorative pearlshell headdress with thin metal headband. Long, dark brown avian feathers, possibly cassowary attached with stitching around the edges of two polished abalone shell halves which fan outward in a flowing pattern away from the edges of the headdress. A red and white, carved and painted stylised wooden star, with a red centre spine is mounted centrally onto a wooden 'nose' post in front of the two shell halves. Additional dark brown, avian feathers have been attached to the vertical, two-pronged, red and white painted, carved wooden extensions on the top of the headpiece.

Statement of significance

This pearl shell headdress (Mayngu Dhoeri) was made by the specialist Torres Strait craftsman Sipau Audi Gibuna. It is an excellent example of a technique using goldslip pearl shells, metal, softwood, paint and cassowary feathers. Gibuna creates mixed media sculptures depicting sea creatures, replica pearling luggers, canoes and dolphins, a blend of contemporary and traditional influences. He acquired this skill of environmental assemblage, especially pearl shell carving, from his mentor, his grandfather[1].

These spectacular pieces are created for the moon dance (also known as meripal kulkan patan which translates to 'blood covering the moon'), traditionally performed during a lunar eclipse, a ceremony peculiar to Boigu Island. The possibility of warfare and bloodshed on neighbouring islands is predicted during this performance with the sun's passing in front of the moon. Island names are chanted sequentially during the performance and the one being sung at the second the moon emerges from behind the moon is believed to be the island at war[2].

1. Demozay, Marion 2001, p. 82
2. Wilson, Lindsay 1993, p.120

Object information

Back to top