James Hooper, Arundel
Christie's, London, Oceanic Art from the James Hooper Collection, June 17, 1980, lot 98 (part)
Lynda Cunningham, New York, acquired at the above auction
Steven Phelps, Art and Artefacts of the Pacific, Africa and the Americas: the James Hooper Collection, London, 1976, p. 171, pl. 93, no. 720
This club is of the apa'apai
type, perhaps the most refined of all Tongan club forms. Creating such a pure, simple form was deceptively difficult since the craftsman, or tufunga tata
, had to create the club within the rules and confines of its type. Here the elegant flare of the butt of the club is mirrored in the wide spread of the head, which is of diamond section. Mariner noted that Tongans 'only ornament those clubs which are considered good on account of their form, or the quality of the wood [...]' (Martin, ed., An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands
, 1817, vol. II, p. 278). Here the shaft is covered in intricately incised geometric designs, known as tata
. Above the ridged collar the head has been left unadorned, perhaps in a conscious attempt to emphasize its shape.
Old losses to one end of the collar and to the edge of the head are a reminder that these beautiful objects were once used in warfare. As in Fiji and Samoa, it was customary to name weapons which 'had done much execution' (ibid.), and so the demonstration of a club's mana led it to be attributed with 'a kind of personhood.' (Mills, 'Akau Tau: Contextualising Tongan War-Clubs, 2009, p. 15).