Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
Height: 152.000 cm
Collected by Hon. Algernon Tollemache
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Maori, AD 1840-60
Poverty Bay district, New Zealand, Polynesia
The Maori built meeting houses before the period of contact with Europeans. The early structures appear to have been used as the homes of chiefs, though they were also used for accommodating guests. They did not exist in every community. From the middle of the nineteenth century, however, they started to develop into an important focal point of local society. Larger meeting houses were built, and they ceased to be used as homes. They were, and still are, used for entertaining, for funerals, religious and political meetings.
This is a side post or amo from the front of a meeting house. A pair of amo would have supported the sloping barge boards of the house. The two carved figures represent named ancestors of the tribal group who owned the meeting house. The figures are male but the phalluses have been removed, probably after they were collected. Their eyes are inlaid with rings of haliotis shell. They are carved in relief with rauponga patterns, a style of Maori carved decoration in which a notched ridge is bordered by parallel plain ridges and grooves. Roger Neich, an expert on the subject of Maori carving, has identified the style of the carving of the post as that of the district of Poverty Bay in the East Coast area of the North Island.
This is one of a group of seven carvings purchased from Lady Sudeley in 1894. They were collected in New Zealand by her uncle, the Hon. Algernon Tollemache, probably between 1850 and 1873. This board and another from the same collection form a pair.
D.C. Starzecka (ed.), Maori art and culture, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)