Vanuatu Ceremonial Adze, Malakula or Ambrym Island
Wood, fiber, shell, pigment
length 15 3/4in (40cm)
Sotheby's, Melbourne, November 2005, Lot 8
Private Collection, Australia
Cf. Wardwell (1994: fig. 59)
"The people of central and south Vanuatu, particularly those of Malekula, made adzes for both utilitarian and ceremonial use. The form...is based on that of adzes which were used to split breadfruit (Edge-Partington 1890-98, p. 146, no. 16). Certain ceremonial adzes are carved with heads, some facing away from the blade, as here, and others showing two heads, with the other placed on the top of the blade...They were carried in dances performed during grade society observances.
The angular treatment of the human face with its pointed chin, overhanging brows, protruding eyes, and pointed head is representative of the art of Vanuatu." (Wardwell, 1994; p. 148)
The elegance, design and craftsmanship of these adzes, as with the present example here with its finely carved, elegant facial features at the top, attest to the vital importance of these adzes in Vanuatu society.