Mai (c.1751-1780), mistakenly known as
Omai in Britain, was a young
Ra'iatean man who became the second
Pacific Islander to visit Europe,
after Ahu-toru who was brought to Paris by Bougainville in 1768.
3 Further reading
4 External links
Ma'i described himself as a hoa, chiefly attendant, the son of a
Ra'iatea landowner. His father was killed by Puni's Borabora warriors.
Fleeing to Tahiti, Ma'i was wounded in the encounter with the Dolphin
in 1767. Ma'i then became an apprentice to a priest. Returning to
Ra'iatea, he was captured and taken to Borabora. Narrowly escaping
death there, he escaped to Huahine.
Samuel Wallis in 1767 and Captain
James Cook in 1769 in
Tahiti. In August 1773 he embarked from
Huahine on the British ship
HMS Adventure, commanded by Commander Tobias Furneaux, which had
previously touched at
Tahiti as part of James Cook's second voyage of
discovery in the Pacific.
Omai travelled to Europe on Adventure,
London in October 1774 where he was introduced into
British society by the naturalist Sir
Joseph Banks (whom he had also
met during Cook's first voyage).
During his two-year stay in England,
Omai became much admired within
London high society. Renowned for his charm, quick wit and exotic good
looks, he quickly became a favourite of the aristocratic elite.
Banks regularly invited
Omai to dine with the
Royal Society and
arranged meetings with notable celebrities of the time, including Lord
Sandwich, Dr Samuel Johnson, Frances Burney, and Anna Seward, among
others. Richard Holmes remarks that Omai's idiosyncratic behaviour
and distinctive bow were widely celebrated. Indeed, during one
famed meeting with
King George III
King George III at Kew,
Omai is said to have
delivered his bow then grasped the King's hand, declaring, "How do,
His portrait was painted by Sir
Joshua Reynolds among others, and his
journey to England and subsequent return to
Tahiti with Cook on his
third voyage in 1776 became the subject of a theatrical production,
written and directed by the dramatist John O'Keefe, entitled
A Voyage ‘round the World that was performed during the 1785
Christmas season at London’s Theatre Royal in Covent Garden.
Omai returned to
Huahine in August 1777 and was settled with a
European-style house, furniture, vineyard and two Maori boys as his
servants. During the Bounty's visit to
Tahiti in 1789, Captain Bligh
Omai had died about two and a half years after Cook's
departure in November 1777.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Omai.
^ Salmond, Anne (2010). Aphrodite's Island. Berkeley: University of
California Press. pp. 283–284,389–402.
^ Quanchi, Max (2005). Historical Dictionary of the Discovery and
Exploration of the Pacific Islands. The Scarecrow Press. p. 200.
^ Salmond, Anne (2003), The Trial of the Cannibal Dog, New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press, p. 3, ISBN 978-0-300-10092-1
^ a b c Holmes, R. (2009) The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic
Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (London: Harper
Press) p. 50
^ O'Brian, P. (1987)
Joseph Banks (Harvill Press) p. 181
^ "Temporary Export Bar For 'Outstanding' Reynolds' Portrait Of Omai"
(Press release). United Kingdom Department for Culture, Media and
Sport. 17 December 2002. Retrieved 6 December 2008. [permanent
Connaughton, Richard (2000), Omai: The Prince Who Never Was, London:
Timewell Press, ISBN 1-85725-205-5
Captain Cook Birthplace Museum
Captain Cook Birthplace Museum website
Captain James Cook
Johann Reinhold Forster
Paintings of the death of Cook
Zoffany's Death of Cook
Statue in The Mall, London
1769 Transit of Venus observed from Tahiti
Kidnapping of Kalaniʻōpuʻu
James Cook Collection: Australian Museum