A Tongan club
Lot 2010
A rare Tongan club, Kingdom of Tonga
Sold for US$ 39,650 inc. premium
Lot Details
A rare Tongan club, Kingdom of Tonga
length 46ins
with glyphs of 42 sharks, transverse collars and patinated wear on tips.

Sharks are reincarnated forms of the Tongan god Taufaitahi, who was the patron of King Taufaahau, also known as King George I, who united all of the Tongan Islands (cf. Tongan Society, Edward Gifford, Bernice Bishop Museum, bulletin 61, page 298) and the god, Tui Tofua, was also reincarnated as a shark (page 300 same).

Of particular note is the exaggerated dorsal fins of the largest shark glyph nearest the top, which reinforces the shark imagery. The six "sideways" humans with clubs are warrior chiefs, known by their headdresses called, faefae (cf. The Art of Tonga, Keith St. Cartmail, 1997, University of Hawaii Press, page 83). Of particular note are the two humans at the top which do not wear the headdress - not chiefs.

One warrior chief (middle lower) carries a Samoan toothed club, fa'alaufa'i (cf. Samoan Material Culture, P.H. Buck, Bernice Bishop Museum, bulletin 75, pages 594-595) indicating a Tongan chief who obtained a Samoan club, or more likely, a Samoan Chief in Tonga, (Gifford, page 14) on Tongan - Samoan migrations and visits. This is important as, Patrick Kirch, The Evolution of Polynesian Chiefdoms, Cambridge University Press, 1984, mentions "long distance exchange was initiated by Tongan Chiefs", these voyages and trade goods were chiefly activities and possessions. Kirch further suggests that material culture imported from Samoa was of a "female" nature, while from Fiji was "male". This may be a direct reference to a specific Samoan Chief in Tonga. It is unique for a glyph to differentiate to this detail such a specific club type.

That all the glyphs are on one side, projecting the combined mana of the shark gods and the six chiefs outwards or inwards suggests this club could be a war god. Edge Partington, when asked if an elaborately carved club was for war purposes or a war god, "was assured it was a war god.......in going to battle it was carried in advance". Ethnographic Album of the Pacific Islands, 1890 - 1898, Series 1 page 81. Neich (Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 116, #2 June 2007) teaches of certain Tongan clubs as gods, called hala.

The pair of transverse collars are typical of Cook specimens, including the famous "Omai Relics" collected 1773, figure #263, also collected in 1773-4, in Cambridge collection, in Hooper, Pacific Encounters, The British Museum Press; in Kaepller, Adrienne, Artificial Curiosities, figure 506; and Stephen Little, Life in the Pacific of the 1700's, Honolulu Academy of the Arts, Vol. 1, pages 186-191.

The patinated wear, transverse collars and style, all date this club most likely to the 1700's.