Image Ceremonial headdress, 1897

TLF ID R6687

This is a ceremonial headdress of the Wangkanguru (Wonkonguru) people, believed to have been made in 1897 in the north-east of South Australia. Called a 'charpoo', its main features are tassels made of rabbit-tail tips attached to a string made of kangaroo fur and hair. It is 41 cm long and up to about 24.5 cm wide. It was collected by ethnographer George Horne in 1921 from Mungerannie Bore, a small Aboriginal settlement east of Lake Eyre North.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This is an example of a ceremonial ornament used in rituals performed by Australian Indigenous people. It comprises a band worn across the forehead and tied at the back, with tassles that fall down on either side of the head, and was worn in conjunction with other decorations, such as a head net stuffed with emu feathers and with body paint. George Horne (1861-1927) observed charpoos being worn during ceremonies by both men and women.
  • Horne witnessed Wangkanguru people wearing charpoos during a 'mindiri' ceremony to welcome visitors to their country. Such ceremonies, involving rituals conducted by both the hosts and the guests, gave the visitors short-term rights to use local water and food supplies. Through body decorations and dance, the Wangkanguru people emphasised their emu ancestor, Muramura Warugali, describing his travels across their country.
  • Charpoos were made in various designs and utilised a wide range of materials, and Horne was told that variations in design did not in any way reflect the rank or age of the wearer. This headband is made of closely woven fabric, whitened with pounded, moistened gypsum that has been plastered on in two or three layers. The tassles are tied onto string made of kangaroo fur and human hair. The strings at each end of the headband are made of strong fibre.
  • The charpoo shown here is an example of an aspect of an Australian Indigenous culture being adapted to incorporate an animal species introduced by non-Indigenous colonists. The tassles of this headdress have been made of rabbit-tail tips, whereas traditionally bandicoot tails would have been used, with as many as 50 required to make one tassel. The European rabbit was introduced to mainland Australia in 1859 and by 1897 was present in large numbers.
  • In the early 1920s Horne made two extended trips to central Australia to pursue his interest in Australian Indigenous culture in collaboration with George Aiston, the police officer posted to Mungerannie who had become an authority on the Wangkanguru people. Like many collectors of the period, Horne was mainly interested in men's objects.

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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
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