Mourning - Indigenous Australia

As a sign of mourning, white 'mourning caps' were worn by some Indigenous Australian communities, although the type of cap worn varied from region to region.

Illustration - Woman wearing mourning cap

 © Australian Museum Research Library

Widow's caps

Mourning caps are most commonly known as kopis. Alternative names are 'widow's cap', korno, mulya, mung-warro, pa-ta, and yúgarda. The caps were worn throughout the mourning period which could last anywhere from a week to six months. They were made using multiple layers of plaster and, when completed, could be between 2.5cm to 5cm thick. They have been recorded as weighing anything from 2kg to 7kg.

Traditionally, the hair was cropped, a net was then placed over the head and plaster applied. Nets were not always used but they made the caps easier to remove after the mourning period. It is thought that extra layers of plaster were added to display pronounced evidence of grief.

Various materials were used to construct mourning caps but all were predominantly white in colour - the traditional colour of the dead for most Indigenous Australian cultures. When the time of mourning was over, the mourning caps were removed and placed on the grave of the deceased.


Last Updated:

Tags Death Online, mourning, indigenous Australia, widow's caps,