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2019

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Canoe Prow (New Zealand), Created before 1840

This is a Canoe prow.

This object is not part of the Cooper Hewitt's permanent collection. It was able to spend time at the museum on loan from National Museum of Natural History as part of Tools: Extending Our Reach.

It is dated Created before 1840. Its medium is carved wood, red ocher.

This ornate canoe prow, tauihu, is a power object. Most likely from a war or fishing canoe, it is a symbolic social force laden with symbolism meant to impress onlookers and embolden users. Canoes, waka, were some of the most important possessions of Maori chiefs, who were concerned with their lineage and their ancestors’ original migrations from central Polynesia. This prow belonged to Chief KiwiKiwi from the Bay of Islands, on New Zealand’s North Island. Carved canoe prows feature a stylized long-necked head projecting forward with tattooed facial designs and a protruding tongue. The aggressive figure at the prow was believed to part the seas, the domain of the god Tangaroa. The figures and spirals, part of the complex symbolism of the Maori, are found across a variety of wood carvings. Wood was worked with stone tools and a mallet of wood or whalebone and carried out under ritual restrictions.

It is credited Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E3790.

Our curators have highlighted 3 objects that are related to this one.

  • Jug (England), 1820–60
  • yellow-ground and multi-colored painted decoration on molded stoneware.
  • Bequest of Jane M. Epstine.
  • 2006-20-47

Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 42 x 44.5 x 110 cm (16 9/16 x 17 1/2 x 43 5/16 in.)

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.

This object may be subject to Copyright, loan conditions or other restrictions.

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If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457239/ |title=Canoe Prow (New Zealand), Created before 1840 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=14 December 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>