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The Natche, a Ceremony in Harbour of the King's Son, in Tongataboo

PAI3904

Object connections:

Collection
Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleArtist: Webber, John
Engraver: Middiman, Samuel
Engraver: Hall, John
VesselsNatche

Object details:

Object ID PAI3904
Description This engraving is after a drawing by John Webber from John Hawkesworth's account (1773) of the voyages of Captain James Cook, Joseph Banks and Captain John Byron. Captain James Cook (1728-1779) made three separate voyages to the Pacific (with the ships Endeavour, Resolution, Adventure, and Discovery) and did more than any other voyager to explore the Pacific and Southern Ocean. Cook not only encountered Pacific cultures for the first time, but also assembled the first large-scale collections of Pacific objects to be brought back to Europe. He was killed in Hawaii in 1779. John Webber was the artist on Cook’s third voyage from 1776-1780. Cook was in the Friendly Isles in May of 1777. The ships then went to Tongatapu, Tonga from June 10-July 10, 1777. Tongatapu (also known as Amsterdam) was the largest of the Tongan islands. The most unusal and extraordinary ceremony observed was the Inasi, which took place at Mua from 8-9 July. Its meaning was not fully understood, and the descriptions that Cook and Anderson have left us do not help to make it any less mysterious. It was centred upon the son of Fatafehi Paulah, who was Tu'i Tonga, the sacred King of Tonga, and was probably performed in honor of his coming of age. Cook recorded that the 'occasion of this ceremony was him [Paulaho] and his son eating together, a thing that had never yet been done.' Whatever the meaning of the ceremony, food, particularly in the form of yams, played a signficant part. In a long trail either in pairs or individually with the sticks over their shoulers, they approached a shelter of small hut, in which Paulaho, his son, and other people of distinction were seated. Anderston termed it the 'royal Canopy.' This Inasi ceremony is illustrated in this engraving of the official account. The drawing for it is no longer known, but it was included in Webber's catalogue. After the first night of the ceremony Anderson returned to the place the following morning, with the intention of gaining some more 'information on their religious and political opinions.' In this he was frustrated for the second part of the event 'did not begin till the afternoon.' It is likely that during this morning excursion, Anderson was accompanied by Webber, for only then Webber could have made his drawing of the venue of the ceremony devoid of people. Loosely bound in album with PAI3893-PAI3903, PAI3905-PAI3936.; Plate No.22.
Date made 1777

Artist/Maker Webber, John
Middiman, Samuel
Hall, John
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials engraving & etching
Measurements Plate: 260 x 407 mm; Sheet: 390 x 535 mm
Parts
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