Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington IUB

Stilt Step (Tapuvae)

Men in the Marquesas Islands participated in stilt competitions as tests of their athletic abilities and spiritual strength. This stilt step, meant to be lashed to a stilt, depicts two figures in the distinctive goggle-eyed Marquesan style. In addition to the decorated stilt step, the stilt poles, between five and seven feet tall, were usually carved with geometric relief patterns, and the black and red braided fiber cord that bound the step to the pole was arranged in ornamental patterns. Stilt demonstrations and contests, which often involved wagering by the audience, were popular in several parts of Polynesia, but the stilts themselves became an art form only in the Marquesas Islands.

Marquesas Islands
Stilt Step (Tapuvae)
19th century
H. 17 ¾ in. (45.1 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 2010.18