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Canoe Prow Ornament (Toto Isu)

Like the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s other toto isu, this one was lashed to the front of a war or fishing canoe, just above the waterline, serving both a protective function and perhaps as a signal to those on shore about the outcome of a raid. This prow ornament also offers another example of the shell inlay that is characteristic of much carving from the Solomon Islands. The work of a professional specialist, inlay was made from nautilus shells that were cut or broken into various shapes, each with its own name. After smoothing or serrating the edges and polishing the pieces, the specialist pressed them into paste that had been spread into grooves that had been cut into the wooden object.

New Georgia group, Solomon Islands
Canoe Prow Ornament (Toto Isu)
Late 19th century
Wood, nautilus shell, pigment
H. 11 ¼ in. (28.6 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 75.51