Canoe Bow Piece


From: New Zealand

Curatorial Section: Oceanian

Object Number P3108
Current Location Collections Storage
Culture Maori
Provenience New Zealand
Section Oceanian
Materials Wood | Metal

Wooden prow of war canoe. Highly conventionalized human figure between two large openwork spirals (pitau), forward looking figure with arms back, tongue out-thrust. A brass plate declaring it to be "relic of Maori invasion of Queen Charlotte Sound" has been removed. Purchased at auction from J. C. Stevens, London, on April 16, 1912. The catalogue description reads as follows:"Tau ihu, prow of a large war canoe: length, 4 ft. 9 in.; depth, 1 ft. 11 in.; width, 1 ft. 3 in. Carved from a solid log of hard wood. Prominent in the design is eleborate spiral work called pitau, representing the frond of a tree fern. This prow contains representations of four human figures, the one which looks into the canoe is called Huaki; the central figure lying on its back is called Tauroa; the one between the spirals is Paikea, the storm god; and the fourth, on front of the stem, with protruding tongue, indicates defiance. This prow bears the following inscription on a brass plate: "Presented to F.W. Trolove, Esq., J.P., as a souvenir of the classic shores of Queen Charlotte Sound, by Captain Courtenay Kenny, J.P., M.H.R. This figure head of a maori canoe is believed to have been the last relic possessed by Ngatiawa (Tribe) of the invasion and conquest of Queen Charlotte Sound, by their ancestors, under Rauperaha (Te Rauparaha) the notorious war chief."

According to Maori tradition, New Zealand ( Aotearoa ) was settled by a fleet of seagoing canoes. A tribal group might refer to itself as a waka (canoe), meaning that the members of the group were descended from the crew of a particular, named canoe. The Maori war canoe ( waka taua ) was not only a vessel used to transport warriors, but a sacred symbol of the village that built it. The waka taua was also seen as a manifestation of the collective body and spirit of the ancestors and of the power ( mana ) transmitted from them to the community.

Height 58 cm
Length 129 cm
Width 39 cm
Credit Line Purchased from the J. C. Stevens Auction Rooms, 1912
Other Number 113I - Other Number | 43a - Dealer's Number

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