Lot 60: A Trobriand Island Canoe Prow (tabuya), Papua New Guinea

Exhibited: Traditional Artifacts From the South Pacific, University Gallery, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Nov-Dec 1991.

A Trobriand Island Canoe Prow (tabuya), Papua New Guinea. Lenght: 20" Classical curivilinear designs, remnants of red and black paint. Ethnography: (excerpt from Met Museum: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/319841) "Projecting sideways from the prow of the canoe, a rich repertoire of motifs inhere in the complex carving style of these elaborated sculptural elements. Lagim and tabuya serve the purpose of beautifying the canoe and captivating onlookers when they arrive in the islands where the Kula ceremonial exchange takes place. The aesthetic qualities of well-executed canoe woodcarvings are believed to enchant Kula partners, “softening” their minds and making them surrender their Kula valuable shells. Splashboards also encompass a series of symbols or emblems with apotropaic qualities. They are said to ward off flying witches (yoyowa in Kilivila) that prey on shipwrecked crews, impregnating the canoes with lightness and swiftness so as to make them faster and more seaworthy. The snake emblem (mwata in Kilivila) is probably a symbol of the ancestral hero Monikiniki, considered by some matriclans in the Massim to be the initiator of the Kula exchange. The birds (susawila in Kilivila) are identified with the sea eagle: just as the sea eagle dives down to take its prey, so do tokula (Kula exchange partners) plunge upon Kula valuables."

Price Realized: $600

Share or Email This Lot

View all The Botelho Collection of Melanesian Art Lots in this Auction

View all Lots in the Spring Fine Art and Antique Auction Auction