MAORI LONG CLUB (TAIAHA)
Wood, Paua (Haliotis iris) shell
Length: 61 ⅛ in (155.2 cm)
The head inscribed in white ink: "WEB COL" and "1750"
Kenneth Athol Webster, London (inv. no. 1750)
Harry A. Franklin Beverly Hills, acquired by the 1960s
The taiaha was the most widely favored of the three types of two-handed long clubs used by Maori. The pointed end is in the form of a carved tongue sticking out from the open mouth of the head, or upoko. This gesture was "a ritualized challenge given by Maori warriors, and thus the form of the weapon is connected to one of its aggressive functions" (Hooper, Pacific Encounters, London, 2006, p. 141).
Fully carved taiaha created during the 19th century are somewhat rare. Two faces with paua inlaid eyes appear on one side of this club, with another face on the other side. This taiaha was once in the collection of Kenneth Athol Webster, the great New Zealand collector of Maori objects. Another fully carved taiaha, from the collection of the ethnologist Augustus Hamilton (author of Maori Art, Dunedin, 1896-1901), is in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand/Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington (inv. no. ME000846).