In fact, 'flesh from a human victim (known metaphorically as a puaka balavu or vonu balavu, "long pig" or "long turtle") was no more ritually problematic than pork or turtle meat […]' (Hooper, Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific, 2016, p. 246) and as John W. Dyes commented in 1840, 'they people treated it as simple if tha had been eating poltrey.' (Clunie, Yalo i Viti: a Fiji Museum Catalogue, 1986, p. 190).
Reiterating the point made by A. M. Hocart, Clunie has demonstrated that the use of flesh forks depended not on the supposed sanctity of the flesh of a vanquished enemy (the opposite being the case), but arose rather because the hands and lips of high chiefs and priests were tabu, or consecrated. 'The women or attendants who normally fed them being banned from the spirithouse, they fed themselves during cannibal feasts, using special wooden forks […] which were in turn consecrated through contact with chiefly and priestly fingers, and kept as sacred relics in the spirithouse.' (Clunie, ibid., p. 120).
The present fork is of exceptional size and has a dark, glossy patina from oiling and polishing. It retains part of its fine twisted fiber suspension cord. See Sotheby's, Paris, September 30, 2002, lot 62, for another large flesh fork from the collection of James Hooper.
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