Clubs such as this one were called ‘u’u, and were a Marquesan warrior’s most prized possession. The club served as both a weapon in close combat and as a mark of high status within society. The clubs were made from ironwood (Casuarina equisetifolia), also called toa by the Marquesans, a dense, heavy, hard wood. The clubs were buried in the mud of taro fields, then polished with coconut oil, to give them a rich, dark patina. They were designed with a curved notch on the top edge so that the warrior could put it under his arm and lean on it.
Though no two ‘u’u are exactly the same, their features are very consistent. The “head” of the club has two sides, each carved to resemble a large human face with projecting knobs in the form of small heads to suggest eyes. A circle of striated lines surrounds each “eye”, similar to the Marquesan tattoo design called mata toetoe. A ridge-line curves between the eyes forms arching brows. Below the high relief eyes, a crossbar projects horizontally from the club. Then there is a band carved with various motifs. Below is yet another set of eyes carved in low relief.
The reason for all of the faces and eyes may have been to draw on the sacred power, and thus the protection, of the ancestors, when in combat. Mata is the Marquesan word for both face and eye, and also used to refer to genealogy. The term for the recitation of an individual’s genealogy, which established one’s place in the hierarchy of Marquesan society, is matatetau, literally to count or recite (tetau) faces/eyes (mata). Mata ‘enata (face/eye people) are one’s relatives, ancestors, or allies. Thus, there seem to be direct links between the notion of face and eyes and the ancestors, with their spiritual powers. The fact that there are two faces may have provided additional protection for the warrior, with eyes looking in two directions.
This contemporary replica piece has been enlarged to emphasize the artwork. In its original form, it would be the proper height for the owner.
72"H x 10"W x 5.5"D