Canoe Prow (New Zealand), Created before 1840
This is a Canoe prow.
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.
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.