RHONE, Rosamund Dobson (attributed)
Woman wearing a fish dance ceremonial costume, Anetan district, Nauru, circa 1920.
Silver gelatin print photograph, 160 x 110 mm, inscribed by the photographer in the negative: Eraidi, Anetan (identifying the woman on the left) and Depairoge, Anetan (naming the young boy); verso with contemporary inscription in ink repeating the personal names of the subjects and with an added note (in pencil) that the little boy is deaf and dumb; unmounted; in fine condition.
The indigenous people of the tiny Pacific island of Nauru are of both Micronesian and Polynesian descent. They have practised aquaculture for centuries, catching juvenile ibija fish (milkfish), acclimatising them to fresh water, and raising and harvesting them in the Buada Lagoon, thereby providing a reliable source of food for the population.
This rare image shows an identified woman of the Anetan district wearing an extraordinary (and, one imagines, ephemeral) costume that incorporates four mature milkfish strapped to her body, and a belt with dozens of smaller milkfish. The image was originally published in the December 1921 issue of National Geographic in an article by Rosamund Dobson Rhone, titled Nauru, the Richest Island in the South Seas.
The photograph is accompanied by a second silver gelatin print in identical format taken on Nauru by the same photographer, inscribed in the negative and on the verso: Burns Philp Motor Lorry and party of Caroline people; also unmounted and in fine condition.