William Churchill.

Club types of nuclear Polynesia online

. (page 15 of 21)
Online LibraryWilliam ChurchillClub types of nuclear Polynesia → online text (page 15 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

15744. This is readily comprehensible as the addition of the saw
metamorph upon a type of club already established in some other
motive, and in ANSP 14522 we are able to discover this type with-
out the saw addition.


After the club has been worked into its conventional shape it under-
goes further treatment under the recognition of certain needs in its
efifective utility and of certain almost instinctive feeling for extra
ornament or for the preservation of certain memorable events with
which the weapon may have been associated, or a suggested promise,
the equivalent of a threat, that in no long time it will be associated
effectively wnth certain events. These additions to the piece fall into
two classes. In the first class certain objects are added upon or
partly into the substance of the club ; in the second class by incision
certain portions of the club substance are removed in accordance with
some regularity of plan in order to improve the appearance of its

In the first class we are to consider the employment of sennit and
leaf ties upon the club, of ivory and other inlays into the surface.
In the second, and much the more complicated, we shall have to devote
considerable attention to the style of the engraving of these clubs and
to the amount of the surface of each thus enriched.

The additions to the clubs are ties of pandanus leaf and of a few
other materials intended for adornment, and of more or less extensive
service with sennit intended in part to improve the grip of the weapon.

Pandanus ties are found on 8 Fijian weapons — billets 3184 and
2489, rootstocks 2482 and 3783 (Plates II c and V 2), serrated 3790
and 3187; and in the lipped clubs 3791 a and 3791 h we find these ties
set together as a parceling.

A string of beads derived from foreign intercourse is tied in two
courses, quite after the customary manner with pandanus, near the
head of the Fijian rootstock 3782 h (Plate V, 4). In the Fijian root-
stock 2485 (Plate V, 3) a double tie of twined wire-Uke rootlets is
found, the two coils being in opposite directions. In the serrated
Fijian club 3187 the whole shaft is covered with a complete spiral
wrapping of nassa shell strung on coir fiber, and the security of this
somewhat awkward application is effected by a parceling of pandanus
leaf applied to the wood as a bed upon which to wind the cord of shells.
The same application, but in this case of bast, is found in 2485, where
the grip winding is of sennit upon this bed. In 2482 we find pandanus
ties themselves bedded upon turkey-red calico.

A singular addition is found in 3100, a Fijian rootstock, where a
seamless collar of bast enriches the shaft near the grip. This bast
must have been pounded until its outer and inner attachments with
the bark and the wood of its sapling were released, then sHpped over
the haft end of the club as far up the shaft as it could be strained, and




Table 5L




Sennit . .
Leaf-tie .
Inlay . . .







then allowed to contract into a firm clasp. It is the sole instance in the
collection of this treatment.

The employment of sennit will call for inspection along several
lines. In some instances its purpose seems to be to afford a better
handhold, yet in others the grip is left bare and sennit is applied else-
where. This arrangement is peculiarly marked in three Fijian root-
stocks, 2482, 3782, and 3782 a, in which the shaft is parceled, the grip
bare, and between the grip and the end of the haft a wholly orna-
mental service of sennit. vSennit upon the grip is found on the billet
2490, the rootstocks 3782 h, 2483, and 2485, all from Fiji, and on the
Tongan crescent 3186 J. Omitting the grip, but extending over the
shaft sennit is found on the rootstocks
2482 and 3782, the pandanus 2487, and
the lipped club 3180, all Fijian. Sennit
parceling is observed on the rootstocks
2482, 2483, 3782 h, 3782 c, the ^^la 2469,
and the lipped clubs 3791 a and 3791
h, all from Fiji, and on the Samoan
talavalu 2272 and the lapalapa 2273,
2274, and 2278. Sennit service is found on the haft of the Fijian billet
3780 a and rootstock 3782 a. Stains upon the polish of pieces serve
to identify more or less clearly the use of sennit on the Tongan
billet 3143, the Fijian rootstocks 3782 c, 2479, and 3100, the Samoan
lapalapa 2276 and 2277, and the Tongan crescent 3186 d. The whole
shaft of the Fijian lipped club 3186 ^ is covered with sennit. Kramer
(Samoa, II, 338) reproduces a Fijian pandanus club in which the
shaft from grip to bend is covered with some sort of plaited application.

Another detail of ornament by addition is the use of inlays. The
material employed is the ivory of the cachalot in 3 Fijian pieces, 3147,
3782 c, and 3783, and 3 Tongan pieces, 3175, 2262, and 2263; human
teeth in 3782 c, 3783, 3784, and 2486, all Fijian; nacre of the pearl
oyster in the Tongan 1975. These inlays are found in the end of the
haft in, the Fijian billet 3147, and the Tongan paddle 2262 and crescent
2263 ; and in the end of the head in 4 Fijian pieces, the rootstock 3782 c,
the ula 3784, the pandanus 2252 and 2486, and in the Tongan crescent
2263; and generally about the head in 3 Fijian rootstocks 3175, 3782 c,
and 3783, in the ula 3784, and in the Tongan paddle 1975.

A brief tabulation of these additions in ornament (table 5 1 ) will tell
its story distinctly. In this it is quite plain that these are characters of
the Melanesian art of Fiji and in varying degrees have been adopted by
the Polynesians of Tonga and of Samoa.

We next pass to the study of the incised ornament, making the note
that all of the carving of these pieces is intaglio; the club has been
completely shaped and polished before beginning the decoration. The
work is altogether free-hand ; no guide is employed to assist the artist



in reproducing typical forms which he has in mind, yet great uniformity
is maintained, quite as in the highly conventionalized and stereotyped
tattooing pattern of the vSamoan men. A very few pieces in which the
ornamentation has not been completed will afford us a gUmpse at the
method of these club-carvers; these are 2286, 2499, 3099, 3100a,
3100 b, 3172, 3182 a, and 3783.

The investigation may begin by listing for each type of club the point
at which the ornamentation is applied.

Table 52.

Piece No.

Piece No.



Complete. .

3184. 3147 a, 2267. 3I44-


3792 a, 3792

2265. 3177. 3147. 3780 e.

Talavalu :




Flange ....




2492. 3185. 2491, 2488.

Complete. .

2270,3178 a. 3172 a. 3172 b.

3780 d. 3780, 3780 a



3100 a, 3100 b


3099, 3172

Rootstock :



3175, 2481, 3782 c. 2480.

Complete. .

2257. 2258, 2256. 2260. 2262.

1974, 3303 a. 2479. 3100,

3146, 2261. 3145. 3355.

2482, 3782 a, 2484. 3782

2269, 3359. 3174 a. 3356,



2271 1975. 3358. 3360.


3174. 2259. 2268, 3357


2468. 2467, 3785 a. 3785,

3784. 3786, 2460, 2463.


2257 a, 2264

3784 a, 2461 a, 2466,


3188 a, 2461, 3188


2286, 2499


Crescent :


3183, 2487. 3182. 2252

Complete. .



3182 a

Homed :


3182 a


14522. 15744

Lipped :

Mushroom :


2495. 2473. 3181


3789, 15743

When the club ornamentation is summed by the three greater archi-
pelagoes which go in varying proportions to make up the culture-group
of Nuclear Polynesia, the most significant results are estabUshed. The
figures in table 53 denote the number of individual pieces; the percent-
ages are derived from the respective sums as presented in table 52.

The sennit ornamentation has been extabhshed as progressive from
the Fijian into the Proto-Samoan communities; this showing presents a
reversal of the culture-current. IntagHo ornamentation of the club is
most highly developed in Tonga, and it is proper to regard that as the
source of the carving v/hich has gone over into Fiji. We may discover
other details of interest. Tonga almost uniformly covers its clubs with
carved decoration and makes each weapon a thing of deadly beauty ; in
Fiji the decoration is most commonly appHed to the grip only and sug-
gests utility rather than esthetics; in Samoa decoration runs appreciably
to the head.



A secondary ornamentation is found in a few instances — chunam
applied to incised decoration and rubbed to a continuity of surface
with the poHshed wood. This is found in a very Ught and poorly fin-
ished application in the Fijian rootstock 3782, where it amounts to lit-
tle more than a coat of whitewash. In the billet 3100 a, of the same
provenience, a neat but slight use is made of this material. In these
two, and, in fact, in all instances, the chunam is apphed only to the
head of the piece, probably because it might tend to obhteration if
employed on surfaces where the hand might exert a pneumatic suction.

Table 53.





Per cent.













Billet .
















Serrated . .











We seem to sense a method peculiar to work in this medium, a recog-
nition of the value of the contrast of the white upon the dark reds and
blacks of the wood. In the Fijian lipped club 3791 the plain and
chunamed panels alternate on each face and alternate as between
faces. In the great Samoan mushroom club ANSP 15743 it is seen that
on one face once covered generally with chunam an effort has been made
sedulously to pick out the white from alternate transverse bands of the
design, and in the homed clubs of the same collection, 15744 and
14522, a distinct eiffort at such contrast is evidenced by bands of orna-
ment in the former and by the broad interspaces of ornament in the
latter (Plate IV, figs. 6 and 7).

Before attempting the detailed examination of the intaglio ornament,
we should obtain the macroscopic effect of the decoration as a whole.
Reference should here be made to Plates I, d, /, g; II, a, c, /, g; III, a, h,


h, j, k, I; V, 2. It will at once he manifest that all of this ornament is
at base a skeuomorph of plaited material or basketry of various narrow
or broad elements. In the clubs of this collection the only material
which is found in employment to cover any considerable spaces is
sennit, and this is not applied in basketry, but always in coil ; the only
exception is the pandanus club in Kramer (338) which exhibits a bas-
ketry of some material appHed upon the greater extent of the shaft.
Yet basketry apphcation upon clubs, in fact upon all sorts of weapons,
even upon arrows, is distinctive of the Buka culture in the .Solomon
Islands, a very suggestive circumstance.

In studying the units of decoration we shall begin with the most
common forms and the most common combinations of those forms, and
we are at once struck by the preponderance of the rectiUnear. The
references by number in the following discussion are to figures which
appear seriatim in Plates IX to XVII at the end of this volume.

The principle of the ornamentation of these weapons rests upon the
skeuomorph, pictures of lashings of sennit and of plai tings of basketry.
The biomorph is almost wholly absent. The spiral vine on the Fijian
billet 3147 a, figure 58, may be taken as in part a phyllomorph; the leaf
has scarcely undergone so much as a conventionaHzation, except that
we recognize that principle as beginning in figure 132, where we find
an unbotanical added ornament, and in figure 133, where a decorative
margin has been suppHed; the vine itself falls properly into the class
of phyllomorphs, for while it retains its natural twining about the
trunk, it is portrayed by the zigzag sennit-derivative. We recognize
no biomorphs ; the nearest approach thereto is the octopus design in
figures 91 to 95, and at the most these figures are but highly conven-
tional forms.

We shall consider in the first place those elements of design which
are at the beginning rectilinear and which in the main diverge very
little from the straight line.

Spatially the most considerable of the rectihnear units is the banded
zigzag. I incUne to establish as the primitive expression the zigzag
with Hmiting bands on each edge. It is clearly a pictorial represen-
tation of the ever-present sennit of coir. As with any cord, length
indefinite and width effectively neghgible, its first macroscopic impres-
sion is that of parallel fines; thus we obtain the parallel bands in this
element. In early decoration arising in other culture areas, a twine
is represented by parallel fines with curved or even rectilinear diagonal
lines across the length. But in Nuclear Polynesia no twine is found.
In the universal sennit cordage of that culture the eye picks out diag-
onal fines in one direction and equally diagonal lines in the other, yet
not quite equally in the visual sense, for on either face of a three-part
seimit one part is prominent as a zigzag, while the other parts are
somewhat hidden by the leading cord, as may readily appear to any


person who will take the pains to plait a braid of three divers colors.
The primitive design of zigzag with two limiting bands is found in
figure 20; in the lower panel there are three quite distinct units sepa-
rated by null spaces; therefore the double banding is visible. But
inasmuch as in most structural uses the sennit is employed in coils,
the common picture to the eye is of two bands brought into the most
intimate approximation; in fact, the band being really an optical
illusion, the result is the obliteration of one band and the pattern is
a continuation of zigzag and band in indefinite alternation until the
end of the pattern is reached with a limiting band. This is found upon
so many of the clubs as to call for no special reference. In figure i
in combination, in figure 2 independently, is found another movement
in the sennit convention — two zigzags with limiting bands for the
zigzags as a pair. This follows the same explanation; it is a picture
of a five-part sennit, a form frequently occurring in Polynesian handi-
craft, therefore quite a fit object for representation. In figure 3 a
finely extended type of band-and-zigzag occurs, and in Plate IV,
figure 4, a most brilliantly executed unit of the same. That the zig-
zag is the essential principle of the unit is made clear in figure 42 at
the left, where broad surfaces of the piece intervene between zigzag
elements, and it has not been necessary to carve any limiting bands.
In figure 4 is found an addition which is unique; if but one of these
triangles were present it might be proper to comprehend it as a partial
stage in the carving of the general zigzag pattern ; but the fact that the
triangles are found on three adjacent lines and that they arrange
themselves in line is indicative of purpose on the part of the engraver
to satisfy some decorative principle which appealed to him. In
figures 6 to 13 are presented several of the more frequent forms in
which this prime zigzag unit appears in composite panels of design.

Sennit itself is found applied to the clubs of Nuclear Polynesia only
in coil; generally it is not present on the grips; yet the sennit design
laid on longitudinally is the characteristic ornament of the club-grips.
It is clear that actual sennit thus appHed would hamper, not improve,
the clutch of the hand upon which life itself is to depend when the
weapon is to be used. We are, therefore, wholly justified in holding
the opinion that in the stage of decorative art at which the clubwrights
have arrived the recollection of utility has quite vanished and that the
design is employed as pure decoration.

Figure 5, unique, gives a broadly staggered fine for which no explana-
tion is forthcoming.

In figures 6 and 7 occur the only examples of a design upon wood
which is frequent upon the human skin in tattooing ; the Samoans call
it selu, from its resemblance to the long-tined and narrow comb of
that name. The rudest form is found in series facing one way in
figure 7 ; reckoning from below upward the number of teeth — four of


3 teeth, two of 4, one of 3, the remainder of 4. In figure 6 the sclu
are presented in three opposing pairs separated by a band — one of 5
teeth, four of 6, and one of 7.

In connection with figure 4 we have just suggested the possibiHty
that the triangle might stand for an imperfect stage of the carving of
the zigzag. The same holds true of the serration unit ; it might repre-
sent more or less of a zigzag unit in which the angles of one face had
been carved and the designer had not yet begun to apply his shark-
tooth burin to the opposite face. Yet there is at least equal proba-
bility that this unit of design came independently into existence, for the
carver need but look at the edges of the shark-tooth with which he is
working and he will find a motive in nature. The units in which we
find serration consist of teeth, always angular, arising from a base
whose bottom line is cleanly rectilinear. This angularity is constant ;
if it were an incomplete sennit motive we should look to find the
tendency toward smooth curves which is clearly apparent in figures
I to 4. The serration units occur in opposite-facing pairs separated
by a bar in figure 6 and in the two wonderfully beautiful figures 33
and 34. In figure 82 is found a solitary instance of this opposition
outward in which the septum bar is lacking. Without septum and
facing in the same direction serration in pair or series is found in
figures 43, 81, 88, and 89, and appearing in the single unit in figures
15, 45, 81, 82, and 83. This decoration appears in the field with birds
in flight in 81, 82, 83, 88, and 89; we may be justified in this connection
in looking upon it as a sky sign, a cloud derivative. In figure 104,
diagonally approximated to the conventional feet of a man, occur
two units of a design ver>^ close to the serration ; in the upper there are
6 small rectangular figures dependent from a rectilinear bar, in the
lower 3 such figures. If this be not a degradation form of serration
the motive is by no means apparent; the beam-and-billet motive is
contraindicated, for the reason that in the abundantly thatched archi-
tecture of Nuclear Polynesia beams and rafters are structural details
which never appear in plain sight.

The next unit of design which arises for examination is the lozenge,
including therewith a few figures obtainable by the same method but
varying in shape from the roughly quadrangular to irregular polygonal
forms. At the right of figure i , in which we find approximated zigzags,
if we reckon up from the bottom we are able to discern the germ of 5
lozenges by reason of the fact that in beginning the carving the artist
had started with his lines in opposite directions and for some little
space was able to maintain this opposition before being conquered by
the tendency toward uniformity which has in the end resulted in paral-
leHsm in place of antagonism of the lines. The same is true in figure 2,
where at least 4 reasonably good lozenges occur at the right of the
design. In figures 25 and 26 we shall have to recognize the triangle


motive in design, the lozenge being the space left unexcavated when two
sets of triangles are carved in opposition apically; of course, in figure 25
there is nothing to serve as a guide; the lozenges may have been the
principal theme and the excavated triangles merely a means toward that
end, as in figures 28 to 30, and this comports with the far greater fre-
quency of composition in surface over composition in line. But, on
the other hand, figure 26 shows that the lozenge was held so objection-
able by the artist that he did his best to erase it by a scored Hne. In
the brilliant designs from the Samoan mushroom club ANSP 15744
various handsome lozenge types are carved ; in figure 30 a lozenge of
chunamed line is produced by crosses saltire of diagonal Unes trans-
formed into two concentric lozenges of surface by the excavation of
upper and lower triangles. In figure 29 is found an emrichment of this
basic motive by the excavation within the inner lozenge of surface of
opposing triangles divided by a distinct septum. In figure 30, by the
omission of all the right diagonals of the crosses saltire while retaining
the outer triangles, a most effective decoration is produced in the
slanting incomplete stages of the lozenge. Side by side in figure 27
occur lozenges of surface and lozenges of Une, the latter being enriched
by interior dots. In figm-es 77, 78, 100, and 103, from the same piece, a
surface of irregular lozenges derived from cross-cuts is obtained; this
effect, covering a large area, is to be seen in Plate XI, b. Very irregu-
larly worked out, the same lozenge product of cross-cutting is seen in
figures 16 and 81 . Another form of treatment of the lozenge is seen in
figures 45 and 56, a continuous line of small lozenges employed in the
same sense as the zigzag.

Recurring to the broader aspect of decoration units, the natural
motive of the pinnate leaf of the coconut is next to attract notice — a
clear series in figures 14 to 19, both with and without the central stalk
of the leaf. In figure 14 there is laid before the view the actual leaf,
one above the other Hke tiles, and the blank surfaces of the underlying
base showing through in quadrangular figures where the leaf has been
nipped short. In figure 15 are composition forms in which opposite
pairs of leaves with stalks are set within lozenges, and in figures 19 and
20 are stalked coconut elements entering into composition with other
units of design. A very bold yet altogether simple treatment of this
motive is presented in figure 17, in the two bottom triangles of which
is found a suggestion of the solid quadrangles of figure 14. From the
simple picture of the trimmed leaflets of the actual coconut it is not
difficult to find evolution as the decorative value of alternation of
diagonal lines becomes recognized, and where more than two such
lines are found it is proper to adopt the common designation of herring-
bone. In figures 20, 21, and 23 are surfaces of 3 diagonals without
stalk, and in 23 of 3 diagonals vv^ith stalk, in one panel of which the
pattern with 2 diagonals and the pattern with 3 compound diagonally.


In the elegantly executed figure 24 occurs a continuing repetition of the
diagonal unit with stalk, in which the memory of the coconut base has
quite vanished.

As the pinnate coconut-leaf motive has been observed to pass beyond
nature into more than two diagonal elements, so some instances will be
found in which but one of these elements remains in areas more or
less extensively treated with parallel lines. It is only for convenience
of record that these are listed with the coconut derivatives, for paral-
lelism is of such frequency in things seen that its use in decoration may
rest upon a variety of motives. Thus in figure 81 we do no violence to
interpretation if we regard it as a sky symbol, and following the bird
clue we may see the same use in the figures 83 to 88. In figure 41 is a
finely executed unit of fine lines forming a grid. Under the feet of the
man in figure loi are found vertical lines just below a horizontal bar;
undoubtedly this associates with the element in figure 104, where the
two are united. In figures 106 and 107 a considerable repetition of
parallel lines seems in some fashion associated with a burden carried
over the shoulders or at some distance from the body in the hand ; in
this we must dismiss all idea of numeration by repetition of fine; count-
ing is frequently done by laying down sticks for each unit or for each
decimal or vigesimal group ; but I have never seen it done by marking
scores, except under the influence of missionary education, and, despite

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryWilliam ChurchillClub types of nuclear Polynesia → online text (page 15 of 21)