Canoe prow

oceania | Solomon Islands

Canoe prow

Solomon Islands

Nguzunguzu canoe prow figurehead
New Georgia, Solomon Islands

Carved wood, pigments and abalone
Late 19th or early 20th century
Height: 5 ¾ in. (14.5 cm)

Ex collection Coué, France
Ex private collection, France

Solomon Islands canoe prow figurehead 14.5 cm / Galerie Flak Price on request
As stated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, « canoes in the western Solomon Islands, essential to transportation, fishing, and warfare, were formerly lavishly adorned. The centerpiece of the prow was a distinctive figurehead, known variously as a nguzu nguzu, musu musu, or toto isu. Attached at the waterline so that it dipped in the sea as the canoe rode the waves, the figurehead reportedly served as a supernatural protector ensuring safe passage and a successful expedition.
The images on the figureheads are typically busts depicted with large heads and circular ear ornaments and small arms with the hands raised to the chin or clasping a smaller head or bird. The jutting jaws of the images were reportedly attributes of spirits and the figureheads are sometimes said to depict, or, alternatively, afford protection from, dangerous sea spirits known as kesoko. ».

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