Playing with Haddon’s string figures
Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, 5, (2), . (doi:10.2752/175183507X219461).
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The transformative properties of string are considered via an analysis of string figures, also known as cat’s cradles, which are loops of string manipulated to form three-dimensional patterns in sequence. This paper looks at the string figures which form part of the collection made by A.C. Haddon in 1888 of everyday objects used by Torres Strait islanders. He promoted the documentation of string figures as a means of ethnographic enquiry, notably via the 1902 publication A method for recording string figures and tricks, co-authored with W.H. Rivers. The paper considers how representation of Haddon’s string figures and how the significance attributed to them has changed. Haddon’s string figures are analysed in their various forms and contexts: as objects acquired by the British Museum in 1889, as published representations of the string figures, and as performance. How meaning is gained during the performance of string figures is understood here as due to the transformative properties of string as a medium.
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