wood panel carved with organic design in curvilinear shapes with several nailed-in shells; reddish finish

Canoe Strake, 19th century

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Wood, shell, nailsexpand_more

The John Cowles Family Fundexpand_more  2002.193

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Strakes were carved side panels lashed to the frame of Maori war canoes. These vessels were spiritually important because they were associated with warfare, which is a tapu, or sacred, activity. The Maori believe this kind of boat symbolizes an ancestor's body. Upon entering a canoe, warriors become connected with ancestral power, a vital source of strength and protection. Individual vessels were composed of a set of detachable parts and were fully ornamented with chiseled motifs as well as feathers. The deeply hewn designs made with stone tools, used before they adopted metal, illustrate the piece's age. The artist adorned the panel with two intricately sculpted human and bird manaia, which are guardian spirits. Meaningful, dense carving makes this a commanding piece, demonstrating the connections between the Maori spiritual and physical world.

Details
Title
Canoe Strake
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2002.193
Curator Approved

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wood panel carved with organic design in curvilinear shapes with several nailed-in shells; reddish finish