William Churchill.

Club types of nuclear Polynesia online

. (page 17 of 21)
Online LibraryWilliam ChurchillClub types of nuclear Polynesia → online text (page 17 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

important drawing in figure 142. Sufficient attention has aheady been
given to the birds in the figures 79 to 82. The remaining figures are
all most highly conventionalized, a plumage distinction being at least
indicated in 86 and a peculiarity of head in 90 and 104. Six figures
remain in which the bird is represented by a generally similar design
of five angles, which differs from the five-pointed star of our decora-
tion by the consistent absence of the reentrant angle at the base of
that design, a feature which seems to represent the tail of the bird
beyond any doubt. In figures 85, 87, 88, 89, 90, and 104, the rear
line of this tail is remarkably straight; in figure 83 it is a considerable
arc of a circle ; in 84 it has been mutilated, but there persists somewhat
more than a suggestion of such curvature.

Figures 91 and 92 might readily pass for extremely formal and pre-
cise drawings of the five-pointed bird design. Yet on the advice of
Samoan commentators I set these apart as pictures of the octopus, and
we need such explanation in support of the series of derivative forms in
inlay which are wide of the bird suggestion. The octopus is a sac, a
webbed disk, and tentacles. Now, if one holds an octopus by the sac
and lowers it in the air to a plane surface, as it has been shown to me on
dry beach-sand, the tentacles retract beneath the webbed disk and the
horizontal profile tends to approximate a more or less regular eight-
pointed star. If now the sac is lowered and the support of the hand
removed, it tends to flatten out, because the consistency of the flesh is
not sufficient to support all of its own weight when out of its element ;


thus the sac must obUterate the view of certain of the points of the
web and will give in horizontal profile some such figure as this under
examination. I attach particular importance to the identification
because it is so commonly accepted by the islanders in their own art
that I have more than once discovered a particular respect for the
American ensign over those of other nations because of the prepon-
derance of the field of stars, for the octopus is one of the high gods of
war. The figures 93 to 95 show this detail worked out in another
method, and in 94 the socket as well as the inlaid ivory piece is included
in the drawing. In figure 98 we find a realistic picture of the same
animal; it is quite often seen propelling itself through the still and
clear waters of the coral pools, and it is possible that the radiant lines
about the sac, which is foremost in such jet-directed movement, may
be the suggestion of motion through the water.

We come at last to the study of the engravings of mankind, a theme
which more than all others has engaged the attention of these primi-
tive artists, for we have half a hundred such drawings before us in the
remainder of these illustrations. In the descriptive catalogue I have
gone on the principle, which in many cases is susceptible of proof, that
the men of the clubs are represented as looking outward from the carved
surface. This establishes itself in the series of armed men, for it is a
valid supposition that the club is carried in the right hand, and this is
invariably to the left of the picture, except in figures 139 and 140, in
which both hands are employed in wielding mighty weapons. Acting
upon this assumption, right and left in these descriptions are directly
opposite the right and left of the pictures.

In figure 130 it is seen how little it takes to depict a man; seven Unes
suffice — a pair of arms, a pair of legs, a head, two strokes for the body.
This last item has peculiar importance in the reading of the designs, as
will be made apparent when we reach that point in the list of distinct
characters. It will be of advantage to present at the beginning the
results of the collation of these figures upon the several units of design
before we study particular pictures. The head is presented in six
forms :

Semicircular with lower line straight : Nos. 98-104, 108, iii, 118, 122, 138.
Circular: Nos. 105-107, 109, no, 112-114, 117, 119-121, 123-130, 135, 139-141,

Quadrant with curve downward : Nos. 115, 142, 143.
Triangular with apex upward: Nos. 136, 142.
Oval with straight top: Nos. 131, 132, 134.
Oval with straight bottom: No. 133.
Arc overhead: Nos. 104, 106-117.

The semicircular head is evidently drawn in recognition of the ancient
head-dress of the men as extending outward in a well-trimmed dome.
The triangular head may be an attempt at the same design, but accom-
plished without the use of the curved hne. We note, however, a con-


siderable difference in the treatment of the design in general, notably
the absence of the side-pieces which so largely characterize the drawings
with the semicircular head. The circular head is, of course, the merest
convention and estabhshes no distinction based upon this form. The
quadrant head is the work of a single artist in its three occurrences, and
the same is the case with the four occurrences of the two oval heads;
this variety, therefore, is to be ascribed to individual taste.

The arc above the head is problematic. The only things with which
I am at all familiar in head-ornament in island life which occupy this
position are three. One is the large turban of white bast cloth worn by
Fijian warriors, one the decorative headpiece of the Samoans compacted
of hair and ornament, one the impromptu employment of one side of
the tip of the coconut-leaf slit down the stalk and tied around the head
from the crown to the occiput in such way as to cause the leaflets to
stand forth like rays. The Samoan headpiece is marked in the front
by colored sticks, which also give the radiant effect. Any explanation
based upon these matters can be made to apply only with the greatest
difficulty to figures no and 112, in which the arc, or parts thereof,
extends beyond the region of the head, and not at all to figures 1 14 and
115, in which it is held in the hands exactly as is a skipping-rope.

The neck is represented in four ways, as in this Hst, the long neck
being peculiarly distinct, and where there is no neck at all we find two
groups, in which the head is attached directly to the shoulders, and in
which it is detached therefrom by a slight blank space.

Short: Nos. 98, 99, 108-111, 114, 115, 1 18-120, 123-125, 138, 139, 142, 143.

Long: Nos. 100-104, 136-

None, head attached: Nos. 105, 109, no, 112, 113, 116, 117, 121, 126, 128, 141,

145, 146.
None, head detached: Nos. 106, 107, 122, 129-135, 140, 141, 144.
Side-pieces: Nos. 100-104, 122, 135, 137.

Here the interest rests particularly upon those additions to the neck
which from their position I have listed as the side-pieces. They are
represented as distinct from the column of the neck, but as persisting
in the space between head and shoulders. They occur in all but one of
the figures with long necks and but three times outside of that group ;
in all but one of the long-necked figures they are presented in pairs,
probably paired in 122, but in 135 a and 137 they are represented by a
band above the shoulders, short in one case, shoulder-wide in the other.
It seems quite safe to interpret these marks as symbolic of the necklace
of whale-teeth, the Samoan ulalei.

The next point of distinction is the line of the shoulders. In so many
instances this tract is portrayed by a horizontal fine that it has not
seemed necessary to list that treatment, but only its variants:

V-shoulder: Nos. 100-104, ^^S> i32i I33-

Upward curve: No. 144.

None: No. 129.

Extra joint: Nos. 100, 112-114, 120-122, 126, 128, 129, 141, 145.


The sharply marked V-shoulder characterizes all the figures with the
semicircular head and side-pieces at the neck, the work of one artist,
who has carried this angularity so far in one piece as to represent the
entire trunk by an X. In figure 115 the V-form is shallow and the tips
of the shoulders are very carefully rounded; in figures 132 and 133 there
is but the sHghtest deviation from the right fine, and the same is true in
the other sense in figure 144. That element which I have listed as the
extra joint is interesting as showing the effort to preserve an observed
detail. It is clear that some of these artists have been sedulous to
portray the axilla. Deficient in method, they have arranged for the
axilla and then have been obliged to extend the upper surface of the
shoulder in order to make room above for this lower detail.

The expression of these portraits rests upon posture, for it will at
once be seen that in not a single instance do we find any attempt to
present the face or any of its features ; accordingly, the arms are a most
expressive character.

Hanging loose: Nos. 98, 128, 143.

Hanging extended: Nos. iii, 122.

Hanging curved: No. 129.

Rectangular at elbow : Nos. 106-110, 112, 113, 116, n8-i2i, 126, 127, 131, 146.

Acute at elbow: Nos. 99-105, 114. ii5. n?, 123-125, 132-135, i37, 138, 142-144.

Flexed: No. 141.

Curved overhead: No. 130.

Triangle overhead: No. 142.

Rectangularly overhead : Nos. 136, 139, 140.

The hand is very scantily carved, for in this art of design very much
is left to inference; but the following list presents the occurrences of
this member :

Fisted: Nos. 105, 124, 133.

3-fingered: Nos. 131, 132, 134-136.

4-fingered: Nos. 131, 134-136.

5 -fingered: No. 132.

Thumb: Nos. 98, 117, 132, 135, 138.

We have seen in the extremely anatomized figure 130 that two marks
were required to represent the trunk. On the other hand, we seem to
find dozens of human figures, even brandishing their heavy clubs,
represented in the extremely unstable position of a squat, with what
seem to be tliighs horizontal and knees angled. It is plain in figure 141
that no man in that posture could accompHsh anything with a two-
handed club which must weigh all of a stone. Furthermore, we have
seen in the study of the shoulders the presence in the drawing of an
extra joint as an art necessity. These three propositions can readily
be combined into harmonious anatomy. The island artist recognizes
such a prominent feature in the pelvis and buttocks that he finds him-
self under the necessity of including it in his trace of the form ; there-
fore he goes beyond nature in its representation. In other words, he


visualizes as distinct entities the trunk and the hips. This view
accounts for the second mark in picturing the body in figure 130, and
makes clear in the figures of which 139 has been selected as the type
that the man is not in unstable equilibrium and that the horizontal
members are not his thighs, but the attempt to give due prominence
to the hips, exactly as in the frequent case of the axilla as entailing
an extra joint. That this is the artist's opinion is confirmed by
several drawings in which the legs are represented as disjointed from
the trunk and in which the hips go with the legs. Accordingly, in
this list of treatment of the trunk it is to be understood as applying
to only so much of the body as lies between the axilla and the upper
rim of the pelvis. It is so commonly represented by a triangle that it is
not necessary to cite such cases.

Columnar: Nos. 117, 122, 128, 129, 130, 135, 140, 144, 145.
Circular: No. 129.

In general the hips are represented by a straight line not quite as
long as that which stands for the shoulders, and from the ends of this
line depend the legs. Variants from the general type are here listed :

Curved hips: Nos. 98, iii, 119, 122, 138, 144.

Hips absent: Nos. 109, no, 112-116, 118, 120, 121, 125, 129, 131, 135, 143, 145.

Attached to legs: Nos. 129, 132, 137.

Detached: No. 130.

The legs are commonly represented as right lines at right angles
with hip and shoulder lines. We note these variants:

Flexed at knee: Nos. 106, 109, no, 114, 116, 118, 120, 121, 125.
Curved: Nos. no, in, 144.

Convergent: Nos. 99, 101-105, 108, 117, 127, 136, 139, 145.
Divergent: Nos. 112, 113, 119, 129, 130, 137, 142-144.
Wishbone tj^pe: Nos. 115, 123, 124, 126, 134, 135, 142.

In general the feet are represented as outward lines at right angles
to the legs; in a few cases there is the suggestion of an instep, yet
that may be due merely to clumsiness in carving, and for that reason
no attempt has been made to tabulate these cases. In some cases the
extremity of the legs engages with detail of the general ornament, and
it has been impossible to determine the existence of feet ; yet there are
a few instances in which feet are clearly absent.

Upward: Nos. 99, 114, 125, 137.

Downward: Nos. 106, 109, no, 113, 117, 121.

Forivard: No. 120.

Lacking: Nos. 107, 127, 129, 133.

Clubbed: Nos. no, 141.

There seems to be a shght attempt to indicate the genitaha in
figures 108, 129, and 133. We observe that in Nuclear Polynesia
these parts are omitted from design with great insistence, being in
sharp contrast with the Polynesian communities of the later migra-


tion to the east and with the Melanesians to the west. In figure 133,
which exhibits a considerable picture of dismemberment, it may well
be that this represents a scene very familiar to the Fijians in preparing
such meat for the oven and the appendage represents the escape of
the entrails. But all these instances are obscure.

In the foregoing designs of the lower animals it has generally been
quite a sufficient satisfaction of the artist's plan merely to picture
an animal or some symbol which in his community is commonly
accepted as standing for an animal. Yet in figure 73 we have dis-
covered the attempt to go beyond this simple statement ; w^e recognize
the effort to tell at least a simple story about the flying-fish and its
aerial enemy. The same holds true in the case of the designs of men.
Many rest content with the simple presentation of something recog-
nizable as the portrait of a gentleman, and we have noted how little
it requires to produce a man — seven strokes in figure 130, an X with
appendages in figure 102.

In the actualities of fife man and the verb are never very far dis-
sociated, homo sum or other, existence involves the need to be, to do,
or to suffer, in Lindley Murray's arid summation of a career. Many
of these pictures present a man and leave the rest to the imagination ;
that is, merely to be. Others are instinct with the need to do; man
must live his active life as his spirit moves him, and we shall have no
difficulty in discovering several pictures alert with industry of some
sort. Yet others portray what man must suffer, wounds in some,
death in others as penultimate in cannibal life, for there is something
after death, and, if my interpretation be correct, we find in figure 133
man's destiny accomplished.

It is interesting in these studies of childish art to pick out the element
of vivacity. In the bird group filling the sky in figure 81 we have
four expressionless symbols for as many birds, but in the distance we
see another coming up on joyful wing filled with the swiftness of
flight. So in some of these trivial figures of men we can sense the
spirit of motion, the activity of the man doing something. In our
figures 114 and 125 there is similar activity; we shall not go far wrong
if we interpret it as a moment of the dance. In figures 106, 109, no,
113, 117, and 121 the pose indicated by the feet shows us the man step-
ping forth about his business, whatever that may be.

Tlirough much of this very crude design struggles for some manner
of expression, the episodic; it is not enough to be a man; one must do.
In the composition of figure 136 we catch one of the needs of a race of
hardy navigators. One may not whistle for a breeze, for the sifflation
is tabu to men, since the gods whistle as they speak; but one may
pray with uplifted hands. Lord, send us a fair wind. In figure 106 we
see the bearer of burdens stepping off with his load, possibly a bunch
of taro with their succulent stems, for that is a common sight in island



life, and figure 107 seems associablc therewith. In figure 129 we may
not hold meaningless the strong right hand and outstretched arm in
contact with two figures otherwise unique; they associate with figure
133 in the matter of dismemberment and appendages; they may repre-
sent the gastronomic phase of some such double victory as is presented
in figure 144. From the Fijian dictionary we collate the following
brief vocabulary of this theme:


body of the slain re-
garded as food.

the body baked whole.

dance of men when
a body is brought

dance of women on
the same occasion.

drumbeat at the feast.

trunk of such a body.

feet of such a body.

to run away with an-
other's bokola.
saku vakanamara a bokola with the skull-
cap knocked off.




saulaca shinbone of a bokola

rulibed down into a
sail needle.

sosova to assemble to see a

body brought home.

taube vadra neck of a bokola whose

head has been
knocked off.

vakaroi vua to call for a beam on

which to sling a

valekarusa the trunk of a body,

eaten first because it
will not keep.

vvate dance of women to

the shout a-lu-tu-
ya-e-e !

Figure 137 depicts for us the man with his spear, a two-tined weapon
such as is made more apparent in figure iii. In figure 142 we have a
most interesting episode in any man's sporting career and certainly
entitled to such permanence of record as has befallen this club, now so
far away from the warrior whom it glorified. Armed with the long
spear, he not only got his man, but a bird beyond ; one may doubt the
tale, but at any rate the warrior wished it beheved and was probably
wilHng against all comers to support its accuracy with the same spear.
Yet the Fijian verb cokaveituituitaka denotes just such a double play.
The design introduces us to the subject of perspective. It is clear that
the transfixed man was not floating in the air when he got his wound ;
it is quite as clear that the brave warrior did not lie down to thrust his
long weapon. It is manifest that the problem which confronted the
artist was to portray the two-handed forward thrust of the spear.
Regarding this as the important element, one which would be obscured
by the trunk, he has had no hesitation in presenting the body as rotated
through 90 degrees with the shoulder-line as an axis. I believe that we
find the same principle of perspective operative in the triangular legs
of two web-footed sea-birds noted earlier in this collection.

Men with clubs are commonly portrayed. In figures 141 and 143
we find them with a missile club in each hand. A common armament
of the Fijian was to carry two missile clubs in one hand, a third stuck
through his belt, and his heavy two-handed club in the free hand ; this
he laid on the ground while deUvering the flight of his missiles, as he
could do with safety, and then picked it up for the closer fighting.



Such a Fijian scene has been illustrated by Kramer (Samoa, II, 280,
338); the former throws light as well upon the semicircular head of
these designs, the latter upon one of the possible sources of the arc over-
head. Other men carrying a single club are pictured in figures 116 and
138, and with two-handed clubs in figures 139 to 141.

In figure 144 we have the pride of the victor who has vanquished two
enemies and who wishes to hand it down for all time to come. On
either side He his foes ; their heads are gone (Fiji : taube vadra) ; they are
sprawled, dead all over, and the leg of one has been broken; their
futile clubs lie beside them as so much timber and of none account. In
the three figures 1 1 1 , 145, and 146, we have men with spear and club in
each hand ; for this double arming the Fijians give us the word we si, and
this is particularly important in its bearing upon the position of all
these figures, for in the definition it is distinctly recorded that the spear
is in the right hand and the club in the left, which of course would have
to be the position in any art of war.

We conclude this study of the decoration of the clubs with an analyt-
ical catalogue (table 54) of the various designs which have been illus-
trated and somewhat in detail discussed in the foregoing pages.

Table 54.









Tonga. . .


Band-and-zigzag, double zigzag, lozenge.




Pandanus. .

Double zigzag, lozenge.




Pandanus. .

Band-and-zigzag. extended band-and-zigzag.



Samoa. .

Lapalapa. .

Band-and-zigzag with triangles.





Zigzag derivative.



Tonga . .


Selu, banded, double serration, panels compounded of vertical and hori-
zontal, vertical and diagonal.




Pandanus. .

Selu single, unhanded, in same direction, 4 of 3 teeth, 2 of 4, i of 3, rest of 4.



Tonga. . .


Band-and-zigzag, rectangular compound panels.



Tonga.. .


Band-and-zigzag, combination panel horizontal-vertical-horizontal-right
diagonal-horizontal-vertical; note panels 2 and 6 composite of 4 band-
and-zigzag and 5 units rectangular basketry.



Tonga. . .


Band-and-zigzag lozenge, coconut-leaf type.



Tonga.. .


Band-and-zigzag triangles of 4 units, basketry.



Tonga.. .


Band-and-zigzag rectangular composite panels, lower right triangle right
diagonal, upper triangle left diagonal, left triangle horizontal.



Tonga.. .


Band-and-zigzag rhomboid composite panel, sides longitudinal, ends right
diagonal, inner rhomboid divided by horizontal band-and-zigzag, upper
area left diagonal, lower area longitudinal.





Coconut, imbricate, stalk not carved, blank quadrilaterals.





Coconut, stalk carved, 2 elements facing in lozenge panel; serration; her-




Lapalapa. .

Coconut, stalk not carved; blank triangles; lozenges from cross-cuts.



Tonga. . .


Coconut, stalk not carved; as herring-bone.



Tonga.. .


Coconut, stalk carved; alternate in each sense with square panels diago-
nally divided, upper right triangle horizontal lines, lower left diagonal

Coconut, stalk carved; longitudinally and horizontally alternate with square



Tonga.. .


panel band-and-zigzag horizontal, diagonally with square panel band-

and-zigzag longitudinal.


Tabuk 54 — continited.











Tonga.. .

Paddle. . . .

Herring-bone, no stalk; triple; band-and-zigzag in three units showing
band each edge.



Tonga.. .


Herring-bone, no stalk; panel double, panel triple; composite panel, diago-
nal division, lower right triple, upper left double.



Tonga.. .

Paddle ....

Herring-bone, no stalk, triple; panel to right left diagonal lines; panel to
left, serration, horizontal bar, zigzag.



Tonga.. .


Herring-bone in panels, triple with stalk, triple no stalk, double with stalk.




Pandanus. .

Herring-bone with stalk, multiple.



Samoa. .


Lozenge, product of facing serrations.


3100 a



IvOzenge, jiroduct of facing serration, a line drawn in order to break up




Lipped. . . .

Lozenge, product of cross-cutting, see fig. 16; lozenge, product of excava-
tion; dot in latter lozenge (compare 41).



Samoa. .

Horned.. . .

Lozenge, product diffuse cross-cutting; exterior angles carved out.



Samoa . .

Homed.. . .

Lozenge, product diffuse cross-cutting; exterior angles carved out; 2 inner
concentric triangles carved out, leaving central septum.



Samoa. .

Horned.. . .

Lozenge-derivative of 28. exterior angles carved out, left diagonals omitted,
resulting in right diagonal rhomboid with notched ends.


3100 b



Triangles grouped, incised, triple triangle, upper inverted apex, 2 lower
apex upward; compare on 32 downward units.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21

Online LibraryWilliam ChurchillClub types of nuclear Polynesia → online text (page 17 of 21)