Round wooden henta board painted with figure representing the moon. [DCF Court Team 12/2/2003]
Place details: ASIA. Nicobar Islands India. Local Name: henyüngashi-kâhe Materials: Wood Plant / Pigment / ?. Processes: Carved / Painted / Incised / Decorated / ?. Dimensions: Max Diam = 580 mm When Collected: Before 1886 Acquired: Transferred 1886 Other Numbers: 139
KEYWORD: Amulet / ?Ceremonial Object / Religious Object / Figure / House-ornament / CLASS: ?Ceremonial / Religion / Figure / Dwelling / ?.
Object description: Round wooden henta board painted with figure representing the moon. A circular piece of wood with a carved figure wearing a green shirt and hat and unpainted skirt. The figure is standing on a table and is surrounded by household items tools and weapons. The background is painted red with a black band around the edge. [SM (Verve) 23/07/2013]
Publications history, trails & websites: Illustrated on page 132 of Amulets: A World of Secret Powers, Charms and Magic by Sheila Paine (London: Thames and Hudson, 2004) and with the following caption: 'Moon amulet decorated with sundry objects and the Creator holding a wine glass, a depiction influenced by local missionaries, Nancowry, Nicobar islands.' and credited on page 187 as 'Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, Acc. No. 1887.11.82.' Copy in RDF. [JP 6/10/2004]
Indian Antiquary, Feb. 1895, 'Catalogue of Nicobarese objects', p. 167 'Henta. Paintings, punctured sketches on Areca spathe screens or carvings on boards. They are somewhat ambitious in design, containing sometimes 7 or 8 pictures on a single screen, but ordinarily only 3 or 4. In the former, a representative of the sun surmounts the whole, or the sun and the moon are represented at the top right and left corners. The Creator (Deuse) is depicted as standing dressed in some quaint garb, on either side of him are usually shewn various weapons, implements and articles in daily use. In the sketch below him are seen huts, cocoanut trees, birds and sometimes men and women; below these domestic animals and poultry; below these again a row of men and women dancing; next come ships and canoes in full sail; and lowest of all are represented various descriptions of fishes, with the invariable merman or mermaid and crocodile. When first made, and at subsequent times of sickness, the henta is called henta-koi-henta. They are made and used in the Central and Southern Groups and at Teressa; but only in the Central Group are representations of Deuse (the Creator) ever introduced. The objects supposed to be served by the henta is, as is the case of the similar carvings and paintings, to gratify the good spirits (iwi-ka) and frighten away the demons (iwi-pòt etc).' [there are further descriptions of particular types of henta on this page] It may be that this is the object referred to in the following letter from the PRM archives: PRM Tylor papers B 13 27.10.86 EH Man to EB Tylor....I think you would be pleased to receive a henta or picture on an Areca spathe. These are quite works of art for people such as the Nicobarese, but they are so fragile that I shd have to pack one separately or in a large partition if packed with other objects. Should you wish for one and would like me at the same time to send fresh specimens of any Nicobarese objects [insert unreadable on photocopy used for transcription] that they have reached you in a broken or damaged state I shall be happy to do my best in the matter on hearing from you. The wooden henta wh. I presented to Genl. Pitt Rivers (figured in A.I. [sic - Anthropological Institute) journal vol XI pl XV fig 1) is an insignificant one compared to many that are made in this portion of the Group.
Another relevant letter is: PRM Tylor papers B13 26.6.87 EH Man to Tylor .... With regard to the collection sent to the British Museum wh was despatched on the 11th Inst and wh will I trust reach Mr Franks about the same time this letter is delivered to you, I should be glad if you could obtain a copy of the Catalogue which I sent with it and substitute it for that I prepared for you, as it embodies my latest information regarding the objects in question, and I found it necessary to correct my description of a few of the principal objects, viz the fetish-like ‘Kareau’ and ‘henta’ etc [AP Leverhulme project on founding collection 1995-1998]
Illustrated in colour on page 134 of The Pitt Rivers Museum: A World Within, by Michael O’Hanlon (London: Scala, 2014). Caption (same page) reads: '102 Painted wooden henta board; originally donated to Oxford's Natural History Museum by a noted collector and colonial official, it depicts a creator figure and a miscellany of local and imported artefacts. Nicobar Islands, India Diameter 580 mm Collected and donated by E.H. Man 1887.11.82' [MJD (Verve) 19/2/2016]