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Title

Nguzunguzu or Toto isu (canoe figurehead)

early 20th century


Artist

Solomon Islands people

Solomon Islands


About

In the Solomon Islands, long plank-built war canoes are revered for their size, speed and splendour. Stained black and inlaid with white nautilus shell, the outer length of the canoe's raised prow is festooned with large cowrie shells. At the bow, carved anthropomorphic figureheads are lashed just above the waterline. Appropriate rituals accompany the construction and decoration of these canoes, which are still made today.

Before missionisation, war canoes were used in head-hunting raids – the small head held in the hands of this figure emphasises its role as a symbol of head-hunting. One of the first works to enter the Pacific collection, this carving was purchased from a private collection in Sydney and closely resembles a late 1800s 'nguzunguzu' from Roviana Lagoon, in Geneva's Barbier-Mueller Museum.

[entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 1]


Details


Other Titles

nguzu nguzu

musu musu

canoe prow ornament


Place where the work was made

New Georgia Island Solomon Islands


Date

early 20th century


Media categories

Sculpture , Woodwork


Materials used

wood, black dye, nautilus shell inlay


Dimensions

32.5 x 23.0 x 14.0 cm


Credit

Purchased 1962


Accession number

IA160.1962


Artist information

Solomon Islands people

Works in the collection

1


Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Referenced in 5 publications

Bibliography


John Mundine and Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Aboriginal and Melanesian', pg. 57-71, Sydney, 1988, 68 (colour illus.), 69,.

D'Arcy Ryan, Art and Australia [Series 5, Vol. 4, No. 2], 'On discussing Ethnic Art', pg. 137-145, Sydney, Sep 1966, 142 (illus.).

Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 144 (colour illus.).

Melanesian art, Sydney, 1966, between 12-13 (illus.), 23. cat.no. 347

1962 Acquisitions, Sydney, 1963, 106. cat.no. 346