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Rarotonga Island fisherman's god and New Zealand Maori short club highlight Art of the South Seas Auction
Extremely Rare Maori Short Club, New Zealand mere pounamu. Greenstone/Nephrite jade, length 13 3/4in (35cm). Estimate $40,000-60,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Bonhams will hold its annual Art of the South Seas auction February 9 in San Francisco, representing all parts of Oceania, with works from Australia, Indonesia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. The sale will feature approximately 184 quality works for beginning and tenured collectors alike.

Highlights will commence with a very rare, 12¾ inch-tall, wood fisherman's god from Rarotonga Island of the Cook Islands, from the late 19th century/early 20th century (est. $6,000-9,000).

From there, standing out in the sale, will be an extremely rare Maori short club, or mere, from New Zealand, made of Greenstone/Nephrite jade (est. $40,000-60,000). The only other known short club to feature a manaia head carved at its bottom exists within The Maori Collections of the British Museum. Historically, such short clubs were both insignia of male warrior status and weapons, and were carried in the belt with a short wrist-cord to prevent loss in combat.

Also in the auction from New Zealand will be a rare Maori pendant in human form, hei-tiki, made of Greenstone/Nephrite jade, likely produced in the 18th century (est. $30,000-40,000). Typically, hei-tiki have been passed down through families as heirlooms, and are worn by men and women. This particular piece is finely stone-carved from the most highly sought after variety of pounamu or nephrite jade from the Maori inanga stone.

From Marquesas Island will be an exceptional stone Popoi Pounder, ke'a tuki popoi (est. $20,000-30,000). Popoi Pounders typically served as both functional objects and art.

Also of note, from Sumba Island of the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia, will be a stone memorial grave marker, penji reti, measuring 88 inches tall (est. $18,000-22,000). The marker, erected in the memory of a great nobleman, depicts the nobleman, carved ear ornaments, whales and a horse with a rider. Also from the Greater Sunda Islands, on Sumatra Island, will be a pair of wood, Toba Batak architectural heads depicting singa (est. $10,000-15,000). In Sanskrit, singa is defined as lion, however to the Batak, the singa is a mythological primeval beast of no defined zoological species.

Rounding out the sale will be a massive Tolai Currency Ring of Bismark Archipelago, New Britain, made of sea snail shells and fiber (est. $8,000-12,000). Throughout history, the Tolai’s tabu rolls, or tamba rolls, have been used for payment during funeral ceremonies, as they are believed to allow spirits to access the world of their ancestors. This access is dependent upon the wealth of the tabu. Shells are a strong currency among the Tolai and can be sold to assist with rank promotion in society.

For more information about the auction or to review or purchase its catalogue, please visit www.bonhams.com/auctions/21588.



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