Omai(circa 1753-circa 1780), First Tahitian to visit England
Sitter in 5 portraits
The first Polynesian to visit Britain, accompanying Captain Cook back from his second voyage of the South Pacific in 1774. He lived in London with scientist and socialite Joseph Banks, who had met Omai in Tahiti and was interested in observing how a 'native' responded to European society. Omai was feted by nobility, entertained by scientists and introduced to celebrities. His charm, good humour and sense of etiquette were demonstrated at his audience with George III and he was quickly discovered to be a sophisticated man with a complex culture of his own, dismantling some widely spread misconceptions and stereotypes about non-Europeans. He returned to Tahiti with Cook in 1776. In the same year he unwittingly left behind an enduring legacy when he became the subject of a theatrical production Omai - A Trip round the World, staged at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.
by William Parry
oil on canvas, circa 1775-1776
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