- Indigenous name
- Associated cultural group
- Pacific > Solomon Islands > Temotu (Eastern Islands) Province > Santa Cruz Islands
- Captain Sydney Mercer-Smith
- Acquisition date
- December 08, 1951
- Acquisition method
- Donated by Mr Sydney Mercer-Smith
- Raw material
- wood; plant fibre; string; pigment
- H: W: 250 mm L: 965 mm D: 80 mm Circum:
Narrow carved wood rattle; one end is keel-like and opposite end is rounded; near keeled end rattle is carved into a rectangle with three notches protruding on two opposite sides; tassles of plant fibre are attached with string to the notches forming fringing on either side. Geometric and curvilinear designs are drawn on with black, red and white pigment. Registration number 2281 marked with tag and pen.
This dance club, made c.1895, is an important component in the cultural narrative of the Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Islands. The islands are well known for their iconic red feather money, banana bast weavings and tapa, tema chest ornaments and the so called napa dance clubs, although little is known about this final type of objects. While dance clubs were frequently collected during the height of colonial governance (1850 – 1910), they had largely disappeared by 1960 (Koch 1971:178). The 2000s saw simplified napa clubs being brought back into use for cultural festivals and for entertaining tourists. Among other objects, these clubs became mediators of a recent broader cultural revival of Santa Cruz traditions (Lueb 2016).
Following current informants, napa dances performed using these clubs were directly connected with dukna (deities, spirits or ancestors). The painted ornaments refer to specific beings, clans or to the environment. Some of the geometric black, white and red designs mirror those used for tattooing. Today the prominent design on this club, called Nokaimawi, is recognised by only a few elder people. The small black triangles represent the rear part of a fish being caught by a larger fish. Nowadays simplified clubs are carved and decorated by the dancers themselves, who interpret their forms as a flowering coconut, a canoe or a phallus. A common routine in one type of napa dance (still) involves two opposing lines of men clashing their clubs together in a mock duel (Davenport 2005:49). Dancers explain that the sound made by the clubs striking one another is an important performative component of the dance, recalling the sound of two fighting cocks as they hit one other.
This Collection Close Up was written by Dr Oliver Lueb, Head of Oceanic Department, Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum.
Davenport W.H. 2005 Santa Cruz Island Figure Sculpture and its Social and Ritual Contexts. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press.
Koch Gerd 1971 Materielle Kultur der Santa Cruz-Inseln unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Riff-Inseln. Berlin: Museum für Völkerkunde.
Lueb Oliver 2016 Die Macht der Artefakte. Tanzkleidung und -schmuck auf Santa Cruz, Salomonen. Unpublished PhD-Thesis.
This 1890s version is little different from those of the modern day. The painted design is called Nokaimawi. The little black triangles show the rear part of a fish caught by a bigger fish [Oliver Lueb, Solomon Islands: Re-enchangment and the Colonial Shadow label].
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.
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].