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Exciting addition to Museum’s Pacific Cultures collection

The Otago Museum has recently been gifted a large woven mat from the island of Pentecost, one of the 83 islands that make up the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu.

The latest addition to the Museum’s collection was donated by Professor Glenn Summerhayes of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Otago. Professor Summerhayes was presented with the mat when he was best man at the 2011 wedding in Vanuatu of a fellow archaeologist. It was part of the exchange of gifts between members of the bride’s party and the groom’s, and was made by a member of the bride’s extended family. 

The Otago Museum has only a small collection from Pentecost and the addition of this kastom mat is recognised as significant.  Large red mats of this type are traditional valuables and have an important place in ceremonial events in the north of the island. 

Professor Summerhayes is pleased to be able to pass on this treasured gift to the Otago Museum, ensuring it can be preserved for, and enjoyed by, generations to follow. “I felt very privileged to have been given this beautiful mat as part of an exchange of gifts associated with the wedding ceremony,” says Summerhayes.

“It was part of that wonderful occasion, and it is appropriate that it is now cared for with the Museum’s collection to ensure these stories of culture, tradition and love continue to be shared and celebrated.”

Otago Museum’s Curator, Humanities Moira White is excited to house the colourful textile amongst other items from Vanuatu. “Not only is the item donated by Professor Summerhayes visually impressive, the particular circumstances around its acquisition make it all the more interesting,” says White. “We’re honoured to welcome this important item into our growing collection.”