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Canoe Prow (Tauihu)

Feathers and a carved ornament such as this typically decorated the front of a Māori war canoe, which could measure nearly one hundred feet long and almost six feet wide. The figure on the front is associated with Tūmatauenga, the god of war. For the Māori, a protruding tongue is a sign of aggressiveness. The figure-eight-shaped mouth is characteristic of Māori style and can also be seen, for example, on the much smaller Māori flute in the museum’s collection. The openwork spiral behind the figure has been interpreted as light and knowledge coming into the world of darkness.

Māori peoples, Te Ika-a-Māui (North Island), Aotearoa (New Zealand)
Canoe Prow (Tauihu)
19th century
Wood, shell
L 36 ¼ in. (92.1 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 65.35