Two-handed war clubs such as this were the favored weapon in Tonga during the eighteenth and into the nineteenth centuries. This beautifully carved club is named apa’apai, which means coconut stalk, a reference to its form. The most remarkable aspect of the club is its surface, which is covered with relief carving. In addition to compartmentalized geometric patterns (particularly zigzags), lizards, birds, and men are also carved in relief over its length. One figure, identified by his tall, halo-shaped feathered headdress, represents the Tu’i Tonga, the title given to the political and spiritual leader of Tonga.
Late 18th or early 19th century
L. 37 1/8 in. (94.3 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 77.34.5