Ceremonial War Club Tonga Archipelago Polynesia

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Ceremonial War Club, Tonga Archipelago Polynesia

Wood, Height: 86cm, 19th century
Ex-Private European Collection

The Tonga islands consist of three groups that lay east of Fiji. Settled by Austronesian peoples more than 3000 years ago, their society was based on a strict hierarchy ruled by supreme chieftains. When visited by Captain Cook in the 1850s, they were known as the Friendly Islands because of their peaceful behaviour. That would change shortly afterwards when internecine warfare broke out between themselves and their neighbours Fiji and Samoa. Fierce warriors they would sail great seaworthy war canoes over vast distances to attack their enemies. As such it comes as no surprise that ceremonial weapons especially the war club, which was the most important instrument of destruction played an important role in rituals. Symbols of rank and power, the best examples were finely carved with a variety of geometric motifs. This example dates from the late 19th century. It was formerly in American and European collections.

Barrow, Terence; Art and Life in Polynesia; Rutland; 1973
Meyer, Anthony; Oceanic Art; Cologne; 1995
Schmitz, Carl; Oceanic Art: Myth,, Man and Image in the South Seas, New York, n.d.\

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