Indiana University Indiana University IU

Culture Māori
Title Flute (Koauau)
Date 19th century
Medium Wood and haliotis shell
Dimensions Object: 7 9/16 × 1 3/4 × 2 1/4 in. (19.2 × 4.4 × 5.7 cm)
Overall (includes mount): 8 5/8 × 2 1/16 × 2 3/8 in. (21.9 × 5.2 × 6 cm)
Credit Line Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University
Accession Number 2003.168

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About this Work

The koauau, one of several traditional Māori musical instruments, is a small end-blown flute, usually with three unevenly spaced fingering holes. Suspension holes on many flutes, including this one, enabled them to be worn around the neck. Passed down as heirlooms, koauau were so highly prized by the nobles and chiefs who owned them that some flutes were given personal names.

This flute demonstrates the Māori penchant for complex, heavily carved surfaces and repeating motifs. The human form (tiki) is evident, although bird-like features, such as round, lidless eyes and beaked mouths, are intermingled. The darkness of the wood is punctuated by the brightness of the shell inlay that embellishes the eyes of some of the faces.

Provenance research is ongoing for this and many other items in the Eskenazi Museum of Art permanent collection. For more information about the provenance of this artwork, please contact the department curator with specific questions.

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"Flute | Collections Online." Collections Online. Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2024.