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Early 19th C. Fijian Rootstock Waka Vividrasa Club

Oceania, Polynesia, Fiji Islands, ca. early 19th century CE. A hefty war club known as a "waka vividrasa" (translated as "fiber-bound root") from the Fijian Islands, hand-carved from incredibly dense rootstock. The lengthy body has a rounded profile and exhibits densely-carved zigzagging "tavatava" motifs along the stocky handle. Layers of original coconut sennet fibers are tightly wrapped around the bulbous pommel as well as the area just above the handle. The head of the club is optimized for skull-crushing efficiency with seven protruding rectangular tabs surrounding the upper knob-shaped projection. The words "I NAVEL" are carved between two of the tabs and likely signifies a later owner from missionary times on the islands sometime after the 1830s. Covered in lustrous caramel and coffee-hued patina, this is a rare and fabulously brutal example of durable Fijian weaponry! Size: 6.25" W x 42.625" H (15.9 cm x 108.3 cm).

The Waka Vividrasa club was a favorite weapon among the Fijian natives. It utilized the bludgeoning properties of a mace while still maintaining an elegant, uncomplicated form which could be wielded by even novice warriors. The chosen rootstock for any given club comes from a carefully cultivated sapling which, after harvesting, provides for an incredibly dense material from which a club can be carved. The globular striking head is shaped from the thick buttress area of the root and requires a substantial amount of practice and patience to carve so as to preserve its form throughout its lifespan.

While the two-handed club was created for swinging by the strongest of warriors, its primary purpose is one which stems from the macabre. The Fijian people view the head as one of if not the most important component of the human body as it is the conduit from which speech, thoughts, emotions, and the imagination originate; it is also considered the "trophy" of the body. Upon subduing or immobilizing an opposing soldier, Fijian warriors would utilize two-handed clubs like this example to symbolically "take" another individual's "trophy" by rearing a mighty swing and swiftly crushing their opponent's skull. This barbarous method of dispatching a foe imbued a warrior with great honor and high prestige from their fellow fighters, and enabled them to boast the coveted status of "Koroi," meaning "bravest warrior."

Condition: Small losses to portions of top projection, tabs, and coconut sennet threads just below head. Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age and use, small nicks to tabs, top projection, body, and handle, fading to some incised lettering on head, several stable hairline fissures, and light desiccation to coconut sennet threads. Light earthen deposits as well as gorgeous lustrous patina throughout.

Provenance: private Honolulu, Hawaii, USA collection; ex-old collection of Alan Mann, London, England, United Kingdom

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