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2009/73/6 Fans (2), coconut palm frond / feathers / vegetable dyes, maker unknown, Fanning Island, Kiribati, 1963. Click to enlarge.

Fans from Kiribati

These fans form part of a collection of objects from Fanning Island, Kiribati donated to the Museum by Mr and Mrs Lou and Elgin Brown, who lived and worked on the island from 1960-1963. In 1960, Lou Brown, who was then employed with the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia), was seconded to Cable and Wireless London (C&W) to serve on the submarine cable station on Fanning Island, one of three islands making up the group of Line Islands in Kiribati. Although the cable station was …


Object No.


Object Statement

Fans (2), coconut palm frond / feathers / vegetable dyes, maker unknown, Fanning Island, Kiribati, 1963

Physical Description

Pair of fans woven from coconut palm frond with spines on the frond and feathers from the booby bird attached to the outside. The first fan has a round head with pink and blue decoration in a mix of circular, geometric and wavy patterns. It has a vertical handle with pink details and black and white feathers around the outside. The second fan has a squat, rounded head with decoration in pink and blue concentric circles, pink detail on the vertical handle and a loop tie at the end. Three black, blue and pink dyed feathers at three points stand out against an arrangement of white feathers.


No marks.



These fans were made in Fanning Island, Kiribati in 1963. The fans are made from coconut palm frond, feathers and vegetable dyes. The circular fan, which features a wavy pattern, was made with a central core of wooden spokes joined together, forming the structure, with the individual coconut palm fronds woven over and under each spoke from the middle out. The desired palm fronds were coloured with vegetable dye before they were woven and the handle was slotted in and woven into place at the end. The squat, rounded fan was made using the handle as the central structure which extends half way up the face of the fan. The thickened fronds in the middle (reinforced with finer fronds wrapped around them) were splayed out and used as the frame for the woven pieces which similarly went over and under in a circular motion, from the middle out. On both fans, the feathers were joined as a decorative effect after all the weaving of the fan head and handle had taken place.



These fans were given as gifts to Mr and Mrs Lou and Elgin Brown. One of the fans was a gift from their housemaid, Naringnau on Fanning Island, while the other was part of a presentation when they left the Island to return to Australia. Mrs Brown says '[the fans] were very useful on a hot day in Sydney, but seldom required on the Island due to the tropical climate and cooling easterly breeze'.


Credit Line

Gift of Lou and Elgin Brown, 2009

Acquisition Date

11 September 2009

Cite this Object


Fans from Kiribati 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 19 January 2022, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Fans from Kiribati |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=19 January 2022 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}