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This trolling lure fish hook comprises a worked and polished abalone shell shank with a similar barb, attached with sinett cord. The lure aspect of the abalone shell is complimented with the addition of a short string of red, white and blue glass trade beads (probably Indo-Pacific trade beads) suspended from beneath the hook.
Similar trolling lures were used in Tonga, and indeed such hooks commonly were made in Tonga and then traded to Fiji. The example here has attached a very old handwritten collector’s label which mentions that the hook came from Fiji.
Such lures were not used with bait but were dragged behind a fast-moving canoe to attract the prey with the abalone shell glinting in the sun to emulate the scales of fish to attract larger fish.
Fish hooks were used for both their intended purpose around Oceania, but also as jewellery, to be worn on necklaces around the neck. Elements of necklaces often were carved to look like fish hooks too. As such, the hooks themselves were fertility and prosperity symbols.
The hook here is in fine condition.
(More images are below. Also, see more Oceanic art.)
Blau, D., & K. Maas, Fish Hooks of the Pacific Islands, Hirmer, 2012.
Brunt, P., & N. Thomas, Oceania, Royal Academy of Arts, 2018.
Grulke, W., Adorned by Nature: Adornment, Exchange & Myth in the South Seas, At One Communications, 2022.
Herle, A. & L. Carreau, Chiefs & Governors: Art and Power in Fiji, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 2013.
Hooper, S., Pacific Encounters: Art & Divinity in Polynesia 1760-1860, British Museum Press, 2006.
Hooper,. S., Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific, Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania & the Americas, 2016.
Kaeppler, A. L., Polynesia: The Mark and Carolyn Blackburn Collection of Polynesian Art, University of Hawaii Press, 2010.
Neich, R., & F. Pereira, Pacific Jewelry and Adornment, University of Hawai’i Press, 2004.
Starzecka, D. C., R. Neich & M. Pendergrast, The Maori Collections of the British Museum, British Museum Press, 2010.
Waite, D. & K. Conru, Solomon Islands Art: The Conru Collection, 5 Continents, 2008.