Performance (world gallery - additional information)


Performances and customs carried out all over the world show particular ways of behaving that often reveal where and how we grow up.

Consider the practice of ‘buying a round of drinks’ in pubs that is ingrained in British culture.

Beyond the mundane, performances in the World Gallery mark important occasions through dance, music, storytelling or puppetry, to name a few. Such performances occur during children naming ceremonies in the Northwest Coast; weddings in the Northwest Coast and Poland; boys initiations from the Bedamuni people of Papua New Guinea, as well as providing spaces where ancestors are revealed (Papua New Guinea) or where people learn to be good (in wiki:world_gallery:layered_info:encounters:asia:thailand|Thailand).

Performances that involve communication to audiences are enhanced through objects of adornment and props. Masks on display in the World Gallery represent mythical ancestors and powerful beings such as Thunderbird and Bear from the ..:..:..:linking_texts:memory:term500786|Northwest Coast people. The Turon mask performs in Polish villages at Christmas or in mid-winter, and the Uvol mask is used in a ceremony marking generational change in New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

In Thailand, the 18th century epic called the wiki:world_gallery:layered_info:encounters:asia:thailand:ramakian|Ramakian story is performed at the Royal Court as a sacred masked dance and gives lessons about ethics, living in harmony with nature, sibling loyalty and love. Outside the royal court, Nang Talung shadow puppets are used to tell the story, with more approachable versions taught at school to Thai children.

Costumes such as the Chilkat robe that is worn by dancers at potlatch feasts on the Northwest Coast relay the history and legends of the dancer’s family and clan. In Poland, folk costumes worn at village festivals, religious holidays and other special occasions, communicate social or marital status, and ornaments, such as decorative tails on boy’s waistbands, are worn to dance and war parties by the Bedamuni, with different details representing the different stages of boy’s initiations.

Performances are ways of embodying the world and sharing understandings of it with the people that surround you. The nuanced messages that are communicated and supported by the material culture on display accompanying these practices are touched upon and explored in the World Gallery.

Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

If you have any further information about objects in our collections or can suggest corrections to our information, please contact us: