British Museum

British Museum

The head of this club, the mark of a Marquesan warrior, presents a mesmerizing complex of faces on all sides, keeping watch in every direction. The tiki, or human figure, is a central focus of art of the Marquesas Islands. Here, larger faces are composed of small faces, combining and revealing eyes and faces in a series of visual puns. Some scholars have traced this layering and hiding of faces within geometric patterns to ancient Lapita pottery designs.

Marquesan warriors carried these clubs to indicate their status. When chiefs sent their warriors into battle, they aimed to unnerve their adversaries with their visual impact. Wielding their imposing clubs and dressed in tall feather headdresses and ornaments, they also sported dramatic tattoos. A warrior is said to have acquired a new tattoo for every conquest, which when completed, covered his entire body with designs in the same style as that on the clubs.

The British Museum acknowledges contemporary cultural perspectives associated with the objects in its collection. Please note: cultural rights may apply to this object.

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  • Title: Club
  • Date Created: 1750/1850
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 138.50cm; Width: 18.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: carved; plaited
  • Registration number: Oc1920,0317.1
  • Production place: Made in Marquesas Islands
  • Place: Found/Acquired Marquesas Islands
  • Peoples: Made by Marquesan
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: ironwood; coir; human hair
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Boynton, Thomas