A god image from Polynesia


British Museum

British Museum

This god, collected by missionaries around the 1820's, is typical of the type worshipped across the islands of central Polynesia, although the exact provenance of this piece is not known.

Known as a to’o, it has a central wooden shaft to which a range of materials attach: a length of palm spathe is secured with a flat section of the finest white barkcloth; neat clusters of alternating red and yellow feathers are bound alongside plaited lengths of coconut fibre cord and strands of human hair. All of these materials were rich with cosmological associations and imbued with the presence of the divine. They were not intended to be ‘representations’ of particular gods, but rather were objects which gods could inhabit.

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  • Title: A god image from Polynesia
  • Date Created: 1800
  • Physical Dimensions: L: 32.5 cm
  • Period/culture: Polynesian
  • Material: wood, palm spathe, coconut fibre, barkcloth, hair, feathers
  • British Museum website: OC,LMS.105