Lot 2
  • 2

Club, Marquesas Islands

20,000 - 30,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Wood
  • Height: 60 in (152.5 cm)


Private collection, England
Kevin Conru, Brussels
American private collection, acquired from the above in 2004

Catalogue Note

This club, u'u, is carved from a dense heavy wood (Casuarina equisetifolia) known to the Marquesans as toaToa is also the Marquesan word for warrior, and an u'u was the warrior's usual weapon and insignia.

The purpose of the u'u was to render the owner powerful and invulnerable. Whilst as a heavy war club it served this purpose in a very literal sense, it also possessed a spiritual dimension. The anthropologist Alfred Gell has suggested that in the Marquesas Islands all imagery, whether carved or tattooed, is a vehicle for atua (gods) "[...] in a tutelary and watchful guardian mode." (Hooper 2006: 163). The imagery on the club does not 'represent' atua, figuratively or abstractly, but rather it constitutes the protective presence of the gods within the object itself.

The head of an u'u is always carved on either side with similar but subtly different imagery which depicts a series of faces looking in various directions. Considering Gell's theory, and the traditional belief in the Marquesas of the sacrilege of approaching a chief or warrior from behind, it seems probable that the janiform aspect of these clubs may form another side of their protective power.