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Chief Mourner's Costume

Episode:31Te Papa Collection:Pacific Cultures

Suggested curriculum levels:5 – 8

Curriculum connections:English: Listening, Reading, and Viewing, The Arts: Understanding the Arts in Context, Social Sciences: Identity, Culture, and Organisation

Description:In the Pacific it wasn't always appropriate to wear black to a funeral. Several hundred years ago the fashion was a frightening outfit made from precious pearl and black shell.

Questions for students

  1. The presenter explains the value of the pearl shells in terms of what a person would need to exchange for one. How could you explain the value of a modern item in terms other than monetary?
  2. What message about status and power did the chief mourners costume convey? Compare this with the ways the special clothing and decoration used to show status in other cultures. Make a comment about your response to this Tale. Use the 'Comparisons' response template to record your ideas.
  3. Think about the way the costume was made. What techniques and materials were used? Apart from decoration, what was the purpose of some of the materials?
  4. What do you know about funeral customs in your community? How do you think special customs help people to cope with death?
  5. What helped you to understand the value, both symbolic and in terms of money or goods, of this costume? What information and knowledge did you use?

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