COOK ISLANDS TRIBAL ART

AITUTAKI

          

Of the seventeen images and staff-gods that have been assigned to Aututaki, the only one that is certainly from this island is indicated by John Williams as a head on a segmented pedestal. (See Figure 1 below). From this image, we can see similarities to the Oldman carved slab in Figure 1 below. Thus we can identify the latter as belonging to Aitutaki and as the "second key" in identifying the unique tribal art of Aitutaki. Superimposed images in the Oldman collection (Figure 3) have a bifurcate base which is possibly a canoe attachment.

Figures 1, 2 and 3.

RAROTONGA

The smoothly finished naturalism of the British Museum Rarotonga image of the fisherman's god below suggests the former existence of a practised sculptural art in Rarotonga. A second sculptural style exists in the British Museum's Figure 2 below while a third sculptural style exists in the Oldman collection, which, if they are correctly localized, and the foot detail supports this then this can be correctly identified as the third Rarotongan sculptural style. There is still a fourth style in the stylized figures of the Rarotongan staff god which has a parallel in the basic theme of Maori carved patterns.

         

Figures 1, 2, 3 and 4.

A common feature of Polynesian tribal art is emphasized ears and this is particularly prominent in Rarotonga. Indeed, the art is sometimes referred to as Taringa-nui (great ears).  

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MANGAIA

From Mangaia, nine "crude wooden images" were taken by London Missionary Society's missionaries in 1894 who sent them with idols from other islands to the mission museum in London, whence they were transferred many years later to the British Museum. In the meantime, most had lost their individual identification and today only the one from Aitutaki already mentioned and the three fine Mangaian staff-gods shown below are definitely localized. 

Mangaian staff-gods.

Two great stone gods, Rongo, are reported from Mangaia: the larger was broken up shortly after the natives accepted Christianity in 1823, for masonry in a church and the other is lost to record. Some researchers have expressed surprise that Captain Cook made no mention of the great image which must have been visible from the Resolution.

Polynesia Tribal Art

 
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 Jane Resture
(E-mail: jane@janeresture.com  -- Rev. 6th October 2008)