Figurehead

Photography Carl Warner

Photography Carl Warner

Photography Carl Warner

Photography Carl Warner

Photography Carl Warner

Photography Carl Warner

Photography Carl Warner

Photography Carl Warner

Registration number
2103
Item name
Figurehead 
Category
Sculpture/Carving
 
Indigenous name
toto isu (Marovo language) 
Maker
Unrecorded  
Associated cultural group
 
Place
Pacific > Solomon Islands > Western Province > New Georgia Islands
Map
Collector
Captain Sydney Mercer-Smith 
Acquisition date
December 08, 1951 
Acquisition method
Donated by Mr Sydney Mercer-Smith 
Raw material
Wood, ebony; shell; lime; cloth, trade; coral
Dimensions
H: 240 mm W: 135 mm L: D: 150 mm Circum:

Description

Wood canoe figurehead carved in the form of a human head or nguzunguzu; the figurehead is prognathous with ears, nose, open mouth bearing teeth, wool ? inserted as hair and hands clasped beneath the chin holding a miniature nguzunguzu. The eyes are inlaid with mother-of-pearl shell, septum is tied with red cloth and the face is incised with chevrons and concentric circles and infilled with lime. A long rectangular section of wood has been carved at the back of the figurehead. Registration number 2103 marked with pen and tag.

Research notes

From the UQ Anthropology Museum exhibition ‘Solomon Islands: Re-enchantment and the Colonial Shadow’, a scholarly project curated by Diana Young in collaboration with research consultants Graham Baines, Annie Ross, Clive Moore and David Akin, August 2016 – June 2017.

Attributed to New Georgia Islands by Annie Ross.

This nguzunguzu is unusual in that it has a head of woollen hair. The great majority of nguzunguzu simply have 'hair' incised into the wood, if at all. The face markings of this example resemble cicatrice seen in the past on people from some parts of the Solomons (Guadalcanal?). The nguzunguzu is primarily a "western Solomons" item and those known to be from that area do not have these face markings [G. Baines, 04/07/2013].

This figurehead, made in the late 19th century, was acquired as part of a large group of objects donated to the University’s Anthropology Museum by Mr Sydney Mercer-Smith. The objects were collected by his father Captain Sydney Mercer-Smith in the years 1893-1900 while he was employed as a Queensland government agent in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Captain Mercer-Smith worked on the Queensland labour trade vessels to oversee the recruitment of Islanders for work on the sugar plantations in Queensland and to prevent unlawful recruitment known as ‘blackbirding’ [Mercer-Smith source file].

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