A Very Rare Solomon Islands Canoe Prow Ornament, Western Region

A Very Rare Solomon Islands Canoe Prow Ornament, Western Region

1800 to 1900 Western Region New Georgia Island

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A Very Rare Solomon Islands Canoe Prow Ornament, Western Region
New Georgia Island
Carved and blackened wood with nautilus pearl shell inlay
19th Century

Size : 32 cm long, 12 cm wide, 15 cm deep – 12½ ins long, 4¾ ins wide, 6 ins deep
Provenance : Brought back from the Solomon Islands by the Reverend Browning in the early 20th century. From the collection of his descendents

These guardian figures are the best known of all the symbols of spirits carved in wood from the Solomon Islands. Associated with the spirit called 'Kesoko', who was a known expert bonito fisherman and a skilled head hunter, the carvings were attached to the bows of canoes just above the water line. Here they would help pilot the canoe and warn of approaching enemies, shoals and dangers.
In the western region of the Solomon Islands especially on New Georgia Island canoes were used for headhunting expeditions and bonito fishing. They were carefully made, and beautifully shaped and often decorated with shell inlaid hulls. However, even by 1910 these canoes and their guardian figure heads had become rare as the Field Diaries of A.B.Lewis show. On Friday Dec' 16th 1910 his entry read 'Not many things to be gotten in Solomon's at present and prices for these very high, even when the natives can be induced to part with them'.

Dimensions
Height 32.00 cm (12.60 inches)
Width 12.00 cm (4.72 inches)
Depth 15.00 cm (5.91 inches)
Medium
blackened wood with nautilus pearl shell inlay
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