A Superb Old Vanuatu War Club Pentecost Island Vanuatu ( New Hebrides)19th Century
A Superb Old Vanuatu War Club Pentecost Island Vanuatu ( New Hebrides) 19th Century
This beautiful old Club is from Pentecost Island in Vanuatu. Carved from a single piece of hardwood into an elegant elongated leaf form. The is an upraised medial ridge from the tip of the club to the start of the handle and an unusual section of carving that would almost certainly have a specific meaning known only by the old men who owned them. The conical-shaped butt is wrapped with a human hair string undoubtedly so your hand won’t slip when sweat.
This elegant paddle-shaped club is a rare type that, according to Felix Speiser, was found only on Pentecost Island. (Speiser, Ethnology of Vanuatu: an Early Twentieth Century Study, Honolulu, 1996, p. 207). The raised form carved on the blade and the sharp, striking edge that projects from one side of the head are characteristic of the style. Here the rippled surface of the wood lends the club an organic, leaf-like quality. Human hair is wound around the pommel, presumably to improve the grip when wielding the club.
In my opinion, this is the most beautifully shaped club out of the many types made in Vanuatu, even in comparison to other Pacific Islands Club types it stands out aesthetically.
I went to Pentecost Island to see the ” Land Divers ” in 1987, this ceremonial diving off a huge tower with vine ropes attached to your ankles is part of the initiation into a secret men’s society where over one’s lifetime you can keep obtaining a higher grade in the secret society. Each Island in Vanuatu has its own graded secret societies.
During the Land Diving ceremony, there were old men dancing & signing & carrying very old clubs, I asked about the old clubs and none of them were for sale, these are important ceremonial objects of prestige & were family heirlooms. I saw mostly the domed-shaped clubs with nobs but none of this rarer type listed here.
The club dates from the late 19th Century and it has a deep old patina from long handling. The club is in very good shape for its age and there are no restorations. The club was likely collected in the late 19th Century which means the club could be significantly older.
I have many 19th Century Oceanic Clubs for sale from my collection
Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea Oceanic and Vanuatu Art
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