Image Ceremonial headdress, c1921

TLF ID R6688

This is a ceremonial headdress of the Wangkanguru (Wonkonguru) people, made at an Aboriginal settlement in the north-east of South Australia in about 1921. Its main features are three thick tassels made of rabbit-tail fur attached to string made of kangaroo fur and hair. It is 56 cm long and up to about 34 cm wide.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This is an example of a ceremonial ornament used in rituals performed by Australian Indigenous people. This headdress of the Wangkanguru people, called a 'charpoo', was tied around the forehead with the attached tassels dangling down. It was worn in conjunction with other decorations, such as a head net stuffed with emu feathers and body paint.
  • This headdress was collected in 1921 by the ethnographer George Horne (1861-1927). He observed headdresses with rabbit-tail tassels being worn during ceremonies by both men and women, and recorded being told that variations in design did not in any way reflect the rank or age of the wearer. Horne obtained this and other headdresses from Mungerannie Bore, a small Aboriginal settlement east of Lake Eyre North.
  • 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 would emphasise their emu ancestor, Muramura Warugali, describing his travels across their territory.
  • The headdress 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 tassels of this headdress have been made of rabbit tails tied onto string made of kangaroo fur and human hair, whereas traditionally bandicoot tails would have been used, with as many as 50 required to make one tassel. The rabbit was introduced to mainland Australia in 1859.
  • Aboriginal peoples of central Australia produced a variety of body ornaments for both ceremonial and decorative purposes. These included headbands, armlets, aprons, pubic tassels, pendants, neckbands and headdresses such as the one pictured here. Body ornaments were traded between Aboriginal groups and in some cases they were 'sung' to give them certain magical powers.
  • 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.
Year level

3; 4; 5; 6; 7

Learning area
  • History

Other details

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  • Name: Museum Victoria
  • Organization: Museum Victoria
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  • Organization: Education Services Australia
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  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Museum Victoria
  • Organization: Museum Victoria
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
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