National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Artefact of the Month: Mah Jong Set

Artefact of the Month: Mah Jong Set

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Mah Jong Set

National Army Museum. Mah Jong Set. 2012.12.4

This beautifully made Mah Jong set is February’s Artefact of the Month and a striking example of Prisoner of War Art. It was made by a Japanese Prisoner of War (POW) at Featherston Camp during World War Two and given to a guard. This set is one of a number in the museum’s collection and is a terrific example of the skill and artistry of the POWs held at Featherston Camp. Prisoners who did camp duties, such as clearing gorse, were usually given free afternoons to pursue hobbies like carving, which is perhaps the origin of this particular set.

Featherston was the site of a large military training camp during World War One and then in 1942 became the location for an 800-man POW Camp. The featuring of this artefact commemorates the 74th anniversary of the Featherston Camp Incident which took place on 25 February 1943. During the incident a staged protest by POWs refusing to work led to a riot in which 48 prisoners and one guard died. A plaque erected in a small memorial garden near Featherston marks the site where the riot occured.

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