93
93
Rarotonga or Atiu Pole Club ('akatara), Cook Islands
Estimate
20,00030,000
LOT SOLD. 68,750 USD
JUMP TO LOT
93
Rarotonga or Atiu Pole Club ('akatara), Cook Islands
Estimate
20,00030,000
LOT SOLD. 68,750 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

African, Oceanic & Pre-Columbian Art

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New York

Rarotonga or Atiu Pole Club ('akatara), Cook Islands
bearing an old inventory number painted in white over a black dot: "130" [or: "136"?]
Length: 88 1/2 inches (225 cm)
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Private Collection, New York
Private Collection, Canada, acquired from the above in the 1970s
Halls Auction Services, Calgary, December 1-2, 2014, lot 503, consigned by the above
Acquired by the present owner at the above auction

Catalogue Note

Pole clubs from the Cook Islands which feature an integrally-carved spear tip shaped head with serrated edges are known as 'akatara.  Stone carved pre-contact examples are extremely rare, and are among the most beautiful of all Polynesian weapons.  According to Harding (in Sotheby's, New York, May 14, 2010, p. 48): "Originally the 'akatara would have been fighting weapons but by the time that European contact was made their use had become largely ceremonial. They were objects of great prestige imbued with the mana (spiritual power) of their makers and of the warriors who owned them.   Only stone adzes were available to the old Cook Islands craftsmen and so the preparation of the rough form of the club was already a considerable feat. Then began the laborious process of shaping and polishing the wood, using finer stone tools, pieces of coral and a sharkskin rasp."

He continues (ibid.): "The beauty and superb finish of these weapons appealed to early visitors to the islands and most of the'akatara now in museums and in private hands were collected during a relatively short period from the 1820's onward. Evangelists of the London Missionary Society arrived in the Cook Islands in 1821 and they destroyed the majority of 'heathen idols' (Harding, 1994). Weapons on the other hand were often sent back to Britain as specimens of native workmanship and several were on display for many years in the LMS museum in Blomfield Street, Finsbury.

"Traditionally the 'akatara clubs have been assigned to the island of Rarotonga and they are referred to in the oral histories of this island which go back many generations. The eye motif shoulder ornament [as seen in the present example] resembles the eyes of Rarotonga figures and staff gods. Further evidence comes from a photograph, circa 1910, which shows Rarotonga warriors with 'akatara clubs. The well known Baxter print of the Rarotonga chief Te Po (1837) shows a rather different weapon; this may well be a simple misunderstanding on the part of the engraver who certainly never visited the Cook Islands.

"In 1777 Captain Cook discovered the island of Atiu and one of his men noted that here 'The clubs were about six feet long or more, made of hard black wood launce shap'd at the end but much broader, with the edge nicely scollop'd and the whole neatly polish'd'. It therefore seems probable that the 'akatara  were used on both Rarotonga and Atiu. By the time, ca. 1910, that Stephen Savage took his photograph of Atiu warriors the clubs were of plain form. The island of Mangaia, the southernmost of the Cook group, also had pole-clubs of a distinctive shape (see Harding, 1997)."

The present club features a head of extraordinary length, with a tightly repeating series of scalloped serrations.  Especially rare is the presence of three vertical ridges which echo the shape of the scallops and recall the form of waves in the sea.  For related examples see Buck (1944: 282, fig. 174) and Hooper (1976: 141-142, pls. 77 and 78).

African, Oceanic & Pre-Columbian Art

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New York