have an angular open mouth. The gadrooned jaws stretch the length of the face with the same pattern as the headdress and parallel strands on both heads. The eyes under a subtle notched arch are two dark holes on either side of a straight nose forming a slight bulge. The ancient lacquer elevated by a thick whitewash in places is remarkable. According to an article by John Boston in the Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley (cf. op. it) exhibition catalogue, this piece’s morphology (produced in the Benue River Valley) is similar to Agbanabo masks. Legend has it that Agbanabo held a festival day on a mound of earth as per tradition outside his home. He was seen by the king’s wife, Ata, and Agbanabo threatened her but the queen disturbed his peace. He went back over his steps then threw two spears he was holding at the queen and killed her. The king decided to ban this masquerade but pressure from the people was so great that it continued, Agbanabo was no longer allowed to hold anything but sticks. The same article, in relation to our piece, describes its role as a keeper of the peace laying down the law and the fear it inspires with its acts of violence and rage. The sculpture’s features, fantastic shiny patina and rarity are exceptional.
Publication : - Mack, Charles, Polynesian Art at Auction 1965-1980, Mack-Nasser Publishing, Northbor, 1982, p. 158, n° 3
19 MAORI FIGURAL PENDANT (HEI TIKI), NEW ZEALAND Nephrite jade Epoque : Fin XVIIIe ou antérieur H. 4.3 in – W. 2.3 in
Publication : - Vente de la collection Roland Tual, Dubreuil et Portier, Paris, 10 février 1930 (lot 57) - Vente Tual - lot 57 de la vente des 9-11 février 1930
The word wahaika brings to mind a fish’s mouth in Maori culture as its local name suggests and this flat club was designed for close combat to attack quickly and on target. The bottom of the short grip is decorated with two curls similar to warrior tattoos or moko, two tiki heads whose features have been worn with use and sculpted on the side edges. A second full-length figure appears on the length of the guard with hooked arms and legs, a wide head and eyes decorated in mother-of-pearl as below. Precise incisions add detail to the face and body decorations. The effigy is nervous and focused, surprised or ready to strike. The weapon’s regular use has given the wood a beautifully warm patina that has smoothed down the design so the lines melt into the wood. The quadrangular holes to wear the weapon on a belt are very old; piercing dense wood on two sides differed to later production that used a European tool to pierce a single side. Fantastic example of this type of wahaika whose curvilinear shape is only found amongst the Maori.
21 FIJI ANCESTRAL FEMALE FIGURE (MATAKAU), POLYNESIA
Wood “Idolatry – in the strict sense of the term – he seems to have never known; for he makes no attempt to fashion material representations of his gods, or to pay actual worship to the heavenly bodies, the elements, or any natural objects. It is extremely doubtful whether the reverence with which some things, such as certain clubs and stones, have been regarded, had in it anything of religious homage.” This quote about Fijians by the Wesleyan missionary Thomas Williams has been confirmed by most evangelists on the archipelago and observers of precolonial customs, also noting the extreme rarity of human figures in traditional arts and ceremonial buildings in Fiji. However, the first Fijian-English dictionary compiled by another Wesleyan translated matakau as idol, giving it the missionary synonym of kalou lasu: “false god”. The term now describes any sizeable human depiction from toys (babi matakau, “Barbie doll”) to statues of Catholic saints or Hindu gods honoured on these islands. According to specialists (primarily Larsson and F. Clunie) who have studied relics of the traditional Fijian statue in wood, tree fern or whale tooth (a hundred items in total), these very diverse human depictions were associated with spiritual/religious ceremonies whose details rem