Beaked Battle Hammer & War Club

The Totokia and the U’u are both war clubs developed in different islands in Polynesia. The totokia was built on Fiji while the U’u was a product of the Marquesan Islands. Both clubs were seen as essential items for warriors and chiefs on these islands. Although these clubs differ in many ways, there are some similarities in the way each club was made, used, and for whom they were made.War clubs were a warrior’s favorite type of weapon because they represent strength and power. Each club was developed specially and for different purposes.

Object Type: War Club Indigenous Name: U’u Culture/Location: Marquesas Islands Date: 19th Century Material: Ironwood Dimensions: 57 3/8 in. Institute and accession number: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992.223
Object Type: War Club Indigenous Name: U’u Culture/Location: Marquesas Islands Date: 19th Century Material: Ironwood Dimensions: 57 3/8 in. Institute and accession number: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992.223
Object type: Club Indigenous Name: Totokia Culture/Location: Fiji Date: 19th century Materials: Wood, leather Dimensions: H. 33 in. x 8 7/8 in. Institute and accession number: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979.206.1401
Object type: Club Indigenous Name: Totokia Culture/Location: Fiji Date: 19th century Materials: Wood, leather Dimensions: H. 33 in. x 8 7/8 in. Institute and accession number: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979.206.1401


The Fijian Totokia is classified as a piercing club, as seen by its beaked head, which was capable of piercing a skull with a single swing (Derrick 1957, 392). Having a larger head allowed for maximum damage even without a large and forceful swing. Each totokia was built and manipulated uniquely to the preference of the warrior or chief. The handle of the totokia had low relief carving, to ensure a strong grip as well as the infusion of mana into the club. The totokia is also referred to as having a pineapple or pandanus shaped head (Elder 1990, 50). The pandanus shape of the totokia’s head exemplifies the connection the Fijians had with their land and environment. Not only does the shape of the head refer to forms from the environment, it also indicates the Fijian’s resourcefulness in developing their weapons. Specifically, the totokia’s slightly curved form derives from manipulating the wood by gently mending it and bending it to achieve the desired form (Derrick 1957, 394). This practice takes lots of tending to in order to achieve the totokia’s form.

The U’u was similarly used as a club in battle; however, it was classified differently than the totokia. It was seen as a very prestigious item, only for chiefs and high-ranking nobles. The U’u is classified as a crushing club (Ivory 1995, 22). The Marquesan warriors (toa) would use the large head of the U’u to smash or crush their enemies. The U’u was used not only as a war club, but also as a chief’s staff and would be carried around every day by its owner. The shape of the U’u is relatively basic, in comparison to the totokia. The U’u was made out of ironwood and the only manipulation needed for the form was carving the wood down to the club’s proper shape. The head of the U’u takes the form of a human head, with prominent eyes, nose and skull. The term U’u in itself means “head” (Pitt Rivers 2016). The nose and eyes of the U’u are actually smaller heads and faces, furthering the importance of the theme of genealogy in representation for the warrior or chief. Below the cross bar of the U’u were three bands of traditional tattooing designs called ipu (Kjellgern 2006, 54). The head of the U’u as well as these designs were representative of the lineage and genealogy of a warrior or chief. The representation of the head on the U’u is also significant in order to the club to be infused with mana. It was believed that the most powerful mana came from the head of a person. The head form on the U’u ensured the club would be infused with a lot of mana. The base of the U’u would have human hair wrapped around the shaft (Geary 2006, 38). By wrapping the shaft with human hair, the club would be infused with a tremendous amount of mana. The more mana infused in an object, the more powerful that object would become, and therefore the more success a warrior would have in battle.

The totokia and U’u are both deemed as the favorite weapon among warriors as well as chiefs. Chiefs and warriors of both the Marquesan and Fijian Islands are very fond of their war clubs, as they never leave their sides. While the totokia specialized in quick striking ambush tactics, the U’u was used to settle territorial disputes. War clubs are the most significant and important objects to a warrior and chief. All war clubs were either buried with the owner or passed down as heirlooms. It was more traditional for a totokia to be buried with the warrior or chief who owned it, while an U’u was more commonly passed down as an heirloom.

I have chosen to compare and contrast these objects in order to examine their similarities and differences in the overall culture of warfare in Fiji and Marquesas. By looking at the war clubs and understanding their significance to a specific group of islands or group of people, their importance can be illuminated.

Bibliography

“Club (U’u).” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I.e. The Met Museum. 2016. Accessed March 02, 2016. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/316742.

“Club (Totokia).” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I.e. The Met Museum. 2016. Accessed March 02, 2016. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/313594.

Derrick, R. A. “Notes On Fijian Clubs: With a System of Classification.” The Journal of the Polynesian Society 66, no. 4 (1957). Polynesian Society: 391–95.

Elder, John. Art of Polynesia. Honolulu: Hemmeter Publication Corporation, 1990.

Geary, Christraud M., Michael Gunn, William Teel, and Stéphanie Xatart. From the South Seas: Oceanic Art in the Teel Collection. Boston: MFA Publications, 2006. 38.

Ivory, Carol S. “Late Nineteenth-century Marquesan Clubs: A Preliminary Analysis.” Pacific Arts, no. 11/12 (1995.) Pacific Arts Association: 20–28.

Jolly, Margaret. “Moving Masculinities: Memories and Bodies Across Oceania.” The Contemporary Pacific 20, no. 1 (2008). University of Hawai’i Press: 1–24.

Kjellgren, Eric. Adorning The World: Art of the Marquesas Islands. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Yale University Press, 2006, 5454.

Reilly, Michael. “Sex And War In Ancient Polynesia.” The Journal of the Polynesian Society 110, no. 1 (2001). Polynesian Society: 31–57.

Pitt Rivers Museum. “Oceania: U’u.” Arms and Armour. Accessed March 2, 2016. http://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/weapons/index.php/tour-by-region/oceania/oceania/armsand-armour-oceania-185/.

Thomas, Nicholas. “Unstable Categories: Tapu and Gender in the Marquesas.” The Journal of Pacific History 22, no. 3 (1987). [Journal of Pacific History Inc, Taylor & Francis, Ltd.]: 123–38.

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