Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
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Ancestor figure from the Solomon Islands
Roviana, New Georgia Islands, western Solomon Islands
This carving represents a male ancestor, who would have been prayed to by local people for spiritual support and protection. The figure holds a fish to show his special powers for fishing.
Figures such as this one were kept in shrines to commemorate the lives and achievements of local people.
These ancestral shrines also mark areas of land and inshore reefs which have been used by generations of Solomon Islanders for fishing and farming. Islanders inherit the same land or reefs which their ancestors once used. They depend upon this inheritance for their livelihoods and homes.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the British took control of the Solomon Islands. A Royal Navy captain, Edward Davis, obtained this figure from Roviana in the early 1890s on patrol by HMS Royalist to enforce British authority.
As the British overpowered their chiefs, the Islanders lost faith in the spiritual powers of the ancestors who had once protected and supported them. They later converted to Christianity.
Although most Solomon Islanders no longer worship their ancestors today, they still respect these landmarks and relics which embody their inheritance and identity.