A CANOE PROW ORNAMENT
In the western Solomon Islands, canoes were essential to transportation, fishing, and warfare. They were lavishly adorned. The centerpiece of the prow was a distinctive figurehead, known variously as a nguzu nguzu, musu musu, or toto isu. Attached at the waterline so that it dipped in the sea as the canoe rode the waves, the figurehead reportedly served as a supernatural protector ensuring safe passage and a successful expedition.
This carving shows the nguzu nguzu holding a bird. This signified that the canoe was coming in peace. The face is marked with traditional 'warpaint' and the ears show either a circular ornament or elongated earlobes. These elements are defined by intricate mother of pearl inlay. The carving is made from Solomon Island kerosene wood (cordia subcordata) and shows a streak of lighter wood near the bird, the nose and also in the back of the head.
For the mother of pearl inlay, the artist cuts a piece of shell to fit the space, then cuts it into tiny pieces, files each one to create the pattern, and then puts each individual piece in place using custom putty.
Marovo Lagoon, Western Province, Solomon Islands.
Personally collected Compadre Voyage
12”H X 8”W X 15.5”L
top of page