This superb Maori hardwood club or patuki or tukituki has four sides carved with a series of interlocking scrolls and stylised masks, a smoothed narrow handle and a bulbous carved handle finial. The shaft and handle finial feature circular haliotis shell inlay. The handle has been drilled through to allow a cord to be attached (this is contemporary with the piece.) Patuki such as this example were used for ceremonial confrontation, as symbols of rank and authority, and for actual combat. They were kept as heirlooms.
The condition of this patuki is superb. The wood has a beautiful deep, lustrous patina consistent with a nineteenth century dating. There are no chips or repairs. Twelve of the fifteen haliotis shell inlaid disks are intact; three are missing. The remnants of what is likely to be an old collection label are still visible on the handle.
The British Museum has a small collection of patuki(all are illustrated in Starzecka et al, 2010); this example compares very well with the best example that the British Museum has.
Items such as this patuki were made by specialised Maori craftsmen called tohunga. There were descendants of chiefly lines and were concerned with war, seafaring, agriculture, seafaring, fishing and woodworking (Kaeppler, 2010, p. 157.) Maori society was decentralised, patrilineal and dominated by aristocratic families.
The previous owners of this patuki had Dougal Austin, the Curator of Maori Art at the Museum of New Zealand, identify this item as a Maori patuki.: From a UK collection – believed by the previous owner to have been acquired by his father in the 1930s, and thence by descent.
Brown, D., Maori Arts of the Gods, Raupo, 2005.
Kaeppler, A., Polynesia: The Mark and Carolyn Blackburn Collection of Polynesian Art, University of Hawaii Press, 2010.
Starzecka, D., R. Neich & M. Pendergrast, The Maori Collections of the British Museum, The British Museum Press, 2010.