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Chasuble, 1978

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Copyright Reproduced courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Purchased from A Hannah, 1915
Creator Fatima Cheeseman, artist, 1978 'Etita Tausinga, artist, 1978 Mata'itini Tu'akoi, artist, 1978
Identifiers Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa number FE011715 TLF resource R6111
Source Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

This is a chasuble, an outer vestment worn by Catholic priests when celebrating mass, made from tapa (barkcloth) and dyes in Tonga in 1978. It is hand-painted with a combination of Christian and Tongan imagery. The Tongan pattern around the neck is known as 'Tokelau feletoa', and a motif possibly representing olive branches decorates the border. The Virgin Mary is depicted on the front, and an image of Christ appears on the back. It was made in Ma'ufanga Village, and painted in Vaololoa Village by Mata'itini Tu'akoi, Fatima Cheeseman and 'Etita Tausinga. It measures 106 cm x 92 cm.

Educational value:
  • This chasuble was made in Tonga for a priest's ordination - it was given to Father John Faisandier on the occasion of his ordination in 1978 in Heretaunga, Hutt Valley, New Zealand.
  • The use of chasubles is a Christian tradition that dates from the late 18th century - Christianity has influenced Tonga since Wesleyan and Catholic missionaries became active there in the 1790s; Tāufa'āhau, a young chief of the Ha'apai group of islands, was baptised in 1831, taking the name Siaosi (George) Tupou; under the name King George Tupou I, he later united Tonga, and together with a Wesleyan missionary, drafted laws that led to Tonga's Constitution of 1875.Vestments such as this illustrate the effect of Christianity in the Pacific region - the indigenous arts have been greatly influenced by Christianity's literature, teachings and iconography; this chasuble demonstrates how the Christian religion has permeated the social and cultural life of Pacific peoples.
  • Just as Christianity affected the Pacific, so the Pacific influenced Christianity in the region - the chasuble's decoration helps illustrate how the rituals and ceremonies of Christianity have been shaped by the art forms and practices of Pacific island peoples and made distinctly 'Pacific'.
  • The chasuble was conserved by a Christian religious order -after Father Faisandier's ordination in 1978, it was taken to St Mary's seminary in Hawke's Bay and then gifted in 2002 to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa by the Society of Mary.
  • This asset is a Christian item that comes from Tonga, an ancient Polynesian country of 171 islands with a history of human settlement extending back at least 3,000 years - Tonga's own monarchical tradition (Tu'i Tonga) is more than 1,000 years old.

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