A variety of clubs were made in New Caledonia, and several examples were collected in 1774 during Cook’s second voyage (see Kaeppler, Melanesia and Micronesia 1978: 245). Perhaps the most distinctive form is the ‘bird-headed’ type represented here (see Sarasin, 1929: pls. 52-5 for examples). The name derives from the resemblance to a proﬁle bird’s head, though the symbolic signiﬁcance of the form is not clear.
This is a particularly elegant example, having a long beak and curving handle. It also has an expanded section at the end of the handle, characteristic of New Caledonian clubs. As in other Paciﬁc societies, most able-bodied men carried weapons, though contrary to European popular notions they were not in constant use.
Steven Hooper, 1997
Entry taken from Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection, Vol. 2: Pacific, African and Native North American Art, edited by Steven Hooper (Yale University Press, 1997) p. 78.