figure, canoe prow, ornament, nguzuguzu, nguzunguzu, toto isu
Collector: Collected by
Sir Charles Elliott
Date Made/Found: circa 1875
Material and Medium: wood, haliotis shell
Dimensions: Overall: 130 x 230 x 330mm (5 1/8 x 9 1/16 x 13in.)
Place Object Found:
Carved and black painted wooden figurehead showing head and arms. Face and eyes are painted in gold bands of pattern. Top of head is not smooth. Mouth is slightly opened showing teeth and jaws are projecting forward (prognathic). It is decorated with haliotis shell. Such figureheads were attached to prow-of-war canoes to protect passengers and bring success in warfare. They would also be placed on posts or shrines near houses.
It is said to depict a decapitated head and would often hold a head or bird in the hands. It is suggested that such ornament represent Kesoko (a head hunting and fishing spirit) and were intended to fighten the enemy. It is also suggested by Meyer (1995) that its features maybe derived from the snout of a mythological dog. The dog threw himself down on his back and slit open his belly to expose his backbone and ribe. He then stuck his hind and forelegs up in the air to create the "poop" and "prow". Finally, he thrust his head out and around through his forelegs which then form the nguzunguzu.