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 head, indicating that the warriors are coming to hunt heads. The face is marked with traditional 'warpaint' defined by intricate mother of pearl inlay. This rendition has a high, pointed nose. The carving is made from Solomon Island kerosene wood (cordia subcordata).
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
9"H X 5"W x 6"D