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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.

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Omai, by Page - NPG D9162

Omai

by Page
line engraving, published August 1774
NPG D9162

Omai, by Francesco Bartolozzi, after  Nathaniel Dance (later Sir Nathaniel Holland, Bt) - NPG D14242

Omai

by Francesco Bartolozzi, after Nathaniel Dance (later Sir Nathaniel Holland, Bt)
etching and stipple engraving, published 25 October 1774
NPG D14242

Omai, by Johann Jacobé, after  Sir Joshua Reynolds - NPG D1361

Omai

by Johann Jacobé, after Sir Joshua Reynolds
mezzotint, 1780
NPG D1361

Omai, by Samuel William Reynolds, after  Sir Joshua Reynolds - NPG D9175

Omai

by Samuel William Reynolds, after Sir Joshua Reynolds
mezzotint, published 1834
NPG D9175

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Dick Stubbs

17 December 2018, 05:48

Omai was actually on the Adventure, Capt Tobias Furneaux of Swilly, who was separated from Capt Cook during the 2nd voyage and actually arrived back in England a year ahead of Cook. Omai did return to Tahiti with Cook on his 3rd Ill fated trip.

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