Baton

Photography Carl Warner

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
4583
Item name
Baton 
Category
Bodywear
Sculpture/Carving
 
Indigenous name
hauanoreereo (Are'are' language); fou`atoleeleo (Kwaio language) 
Maker
Unrecorded  
Associated cultural group
 
Place
Pacific > Solomon Islands > Malaita Province > Malaita Island
Map
Collector
Unrecorded 
Acquisition date
January 01, 1950 
Acquisition method
Donated by R. H. Hughes 
Raw material
wood, nautilus shell, stone, vine
Dimensions
H: 432 mm W: 48 mm L: D: 46 mm Circum:

Description

Cylindrical wood baton with round stone head encased in woven vine strips; plant fibre plaited and woven around shaft below head; multi-point shell stars inlaid on shaft below head; lower half of shaft is inlaid with a row of semi-circular nautilus mother-of-pearl shell and rows of carved shell separated by a row of horizontal pieces of shell; inlaid with putty nut; a five-point shell star is also inlaid in the bottom end of the baton. Registration number 4583 marked with tag and pen.

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. Solomon Islands exhibition label: Starting in World War 2 stars and eagles from American military insignia became popular as motifs on artwork such as clubs, dafi pearlshell neck ornaments and they continue to be used now.

This baton, one of four in the collection, is from southern Malaita in Solomon Islands, where `Are`are and Kwaio people call them hauanoreereo and fou`atoleeleo, respectively. The names refer to their chambered nautilus shell inlay (leeleo) and the stone (hau or fou), usually a pyrite nodule, often bound to the top with ornamental plaiting. Men who had killed wore them hanging down their back from a cord round the neck.

Until the 1920s, Malaitans could post bounties of shell money and pigs for the killing of specified persons. These bounties, called sikwa, allowed militarily weak groups to use wealth to defend themselves against groups with more fighters or guns. Certain men, called lamo, would hunt and kill the targeted person. At a public collection ceremony, the sponsor displayed the shell money bounty upon a high wooden platform with pigs tethered below. With a bow in his left hand and the fou`atoleeleo baton outstretched in his right, the lamo danced into the clearing and approached the platform between two rows, formed by a large escort of kinsmen.

In `Are`are, his holding the baton at its middle signalled the feud was settled; if by the knob, there would be further killing. Upon his reaching the platform steps, the ancestral spirits who had empowered him to kill would possess him, and he often collapsed at the top. He would then orate about the killing and any related grievances while holding up the fou`atoleeleo. These batons were perhaps the first Solomons artwork Europeans collected, when Alvaro de Mendaña’s men, thinking the pyrite was gold, bartered clothing for them in 1568.

[Also see 4466, 10295 and 23868]

This Item of the Month was written by Professor David Akin, University of Michigan.

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