London: Crystal Palace Machinery Department, ca. 1879. Ephemera. A rare cotton handkerchief, ridiculing the Fijians at a time when England had annexed Fiji; brought measles to the unexposed population, killing about a third of them; conducted a "little war" to quash the Highlanders revolt and imported indentured Indian laborers to work the sugarcane fields, which have all but overwhelmed the native Fijian population in the present day.
The four vignettes ridicule the Fijians, dishonoring their traditions as pagan while the missionaries were force feeding Christianity to them. Christianity is equated with civilization. The beast which devours Fijians "before Civilization" has arrived gives rise to their bickering over the gaudy clothes the British have brought. Thus, the time honored tactic of Colonialism echoes through the centuries.
The information about this textile is from a catalogue in 2004 by Finch & Co., in which it is noted that these “cotton handkerchiefs are said to have been printed in the machinery department of Crystal Palace in 1879 on behalf of a missionary society.”
Cotton handkerchief, printed color, 22" square. Very good condition. Item #25019