This object is a rain cloak made from shredded palm leaves. It is part of the William Ninnis Porter Collection and can be dated to the 19th Century. It has been documented as originating from the Chin State. There are two other rain cloaks in the collection donated by Porter, these are 39/1907 and 41/1907. The rain cloak is worn by women during the rainy season for protection from the rain. When it is not raining the cloak may be pulled down and worn around the hips. Similar examples of rain cloaks are worn by the Nagas of Nagaland, India. Examples have been documented in ‘Textiles of the Highland Peoples of Burma, Vol 1, Studies in the Material Cultures of Southeast Asia, No. 7’ (Howard 2005:39 & 255).
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Small qauata curved dance club. Qauata or mada are dance clubs with a distinctive square ended blade and light form. They are were used at seasonal festivals in dances celebrating either bonito fishing or warfare. In dances representing bonito fishing, its curve is used to enact the movement of the prow of a canoe. Likely acquired by John Gould Veitch on the HMS Curacoa in 1865.
This is a lotus-shaped fan made of layers of woven palm leaf. It is covered with a layer of gilded lacquer and ornately inlaid with red, green and blue glass. A large wooden handle is attached to the fan, and where it joins the fan image of a fig leaf has been created, which is an emblem of the Buddha. Although the exact provenance is unknown the fan is part of the William Ninnis Porter Collection and therefore predates the late 1800s. The fan functions as a ceremonial replica of a basic monks fan, and is used for presentation to monasteries. References to this type of fan can be found in ‘Burmese Crafts, Past and Present’ (Fraser-Lu 1994:292). An excellent collection of fans from the Indian subcontinent can be seen at The Fan Museum in Greenwich, London. There are many parallels between Indian and Burmese palm leaf fans, as observed in their catalogue for a recent exhibition on the collection of Jatin Das called ‘Pankha’.
This umbrella is made of a bamboo frame, and covered with a shiny golden synthetic fabric or golden paper. Its condition is fragile. Although the provenance of this umbrella is unknown, these types of umbrellas are made on the east side of the Maha-muni pagoda in Mandalay, and therefore this may be suggested as a provenance. It can be dated to 20th century. These types of umbrellas are ‘made especially for novication ceremonies. They are purchased by friends and relatives as a fitting ‘royal accoutrement’ for a young ‘prince’ as he is borne aloft a pomp and ceremony to the monastery. On arrival he is ceremoniously divested of his kingly raiment, including his umbrella, in favour of the tonsure and monks robes’ (Fraser-Lu 1994:292). The ceremony is basically a re-enactment of when Prince Siddhartha gave up all his worldly goods and started on his road to enlightenment. Apart from the monastic ceremony, golden umbrellas are otherwise only permitted to be used by Royal Princes and High Officials, and even then the quality is supreme.
This large round hat is woven from rice straw. Most Burmese farmers/fishermen wear a sturdy conical hat known as a ‘kha-mauk’, which is made from a bamboo frame and bamboo sheath. This hat is very similar in shape but the rice straw makes the hat more malleable. Unlike the rest of Southeast Asia Burma does not have an array of hats for working in the fields, so it is interesting to have this example in the collection. Two images of similar hats being worn were documented by James Henry Green and can be found in his photographic collection at the Royal Pavilions, Brighton. Photo 1564 shows similar hats being worn at the marketplace and photo 0253 shows the hats being worn at a Manau festival where people are dancing. These photographs suggest that the hats were worn in a variety of situations.