Ceremonial paddle

Wood (probably tamanu) Lenght 163 cm (64.3 in.) Tuha'a Pae, Austral Islands, French Polynesia - 19th century

Finely decorated around the pommel with sixteen representative carved human faces and hollowed out, the cylindrical shaft and enormous, elegant spade-form blade carved throughout with exceedingly fine incised 'sunburst' design and with a rich and glossy dark- brown patina overall.

According to Rhys Richards, "Though widely called 'paddles', these objects are not functional paddles. They are ‘paddle-shaped,’ but their sizes are too extreme; their shafts are too weak, and they are thoroughly unsuitable for use as paddles. Consequently, it has been assumed that they were emblems of rank or status, for ceremonial rather than functional use." Rhys continues, "There are good grounds for asserting however that few if any 'paddles' were made and exported after 1842. Firstly,
the population decline was extreme, particularly among the adults, and dead men made no paddles. By 1840 the total population on Tubuai had fallen to 250 and on Raivavae to 360. If half were children, and half the adults were female, then the pool of adult men who could have been potential carvers, was about 90 and 60 for
the two islands, respectively. Actual carvers would have been even fewer, particularly if as previously, carvers had been a select group. However, according to the mission records, by then most of these men would have been Christians, whose devout moral advisers actively discouraged traditional arts." (The Austral Islands: History, Art and Art History, New Zealand, 2012, pp 141-145)

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Tambaran Gallery

"Photography from 1870 onwards, Asian Art and Ethnographic Art"

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