- Museum number
War canoe (a) with a plank-built hull made with nut putty, painted black and inlaid with pearlshell. Wooden and shell-inlaid guardian figure on the prow on sea level, another figure is detached (b). Wooden prow (c) and stern (d) also with shell inlay have been separated. Box containing strips of shell inlay and putty (e) as well as other bamboo sticks with feather (frigate bird or cockatoo?) and red cloth (g). A wooden museum board with canoe ornaments attached (f) and wooden sticks of various lengths which serve as canoe fitting (h-i and j-m) also belong to this canoe.
- Production date
- 1910 (circa)
Height: 278 centimetres (a, bottom hull to top prow)
Height: 340 centimetres (a, bottom hull to top stern)
Height: 33.50 centimetres (b, separate canoe head)
Height: 151 centimetres (c, prow)
Height: 186.50 centimetres (d, stern)
Length: 1153 centimetres (a, canoe)
Length: 29 centimetres (g, bamboo sticks as bundled)
Width: 110 centimetres (a, canoe)
Width: 21.50 centimetres (c, prow)
Width: 17.50 centimetres (d, stern)
Width: 6 centimetres (g, bamboo sticks as bundled)
Depth: 25 centimetres (b, separate canoe head)
- Curator's comments
- According to Graham Baines (see letter below), the canoe was built by Jiosi Angele at Njava, Vella Lavella and was probably named 'Lotu'.
Brodhust-Hill's account of the canoe is given in his letter to the British Museum Ethnography Dept., as follows:
Red House / Chelsworth / Suffolk / 29th April 1965
I appreciate your letter and that you share my own interest in the canoe. I had better start off saying that I am now nearing 85. Otherwise I would gladly pay a visit and I might be able to answer the questions that you might wish to ask.
Yes, the canoe did have a tiny auxiliary sail. But they are not designed for sailing in a big way like canoes of other parts of the Pacific. Neither will I dare to pose as an authority on canoe sailing.
This canoe was built somewhere about 1910. I was then at the early stage of my career (23 ½ years). A few years previously a good number of war canoes existed and were used in expeditions of a quite bloody kind. My predecessors had the responsibility of discouraging that form of national sport with no equipment other than sailing boats in a territory covering perhaps 1500 miles of sea. And so the last old war canoes had been used up or destroyed before I could have seen them in action. Missionising started. The a few more appointments in the government service were made, but transport for these officers was limited. My own was a 24ft whale boat. XX
This canoe was built in my time and was suggested for a kind of war purpose! I was suggested to accompany an expedition of a murderous nature. Because all the joy had been taken out from their lives by the prohibition of murder, my temptor felt that my presence might be a protection against court proceedings. Mahaffy, late asst. High Commissioner for the Western Pacific was the man who stopped the sport. My temptor said to me in protest against my discouraging attitude "But I knew Mahaffy, I am a nice fellow." And so I said proceed and build me a canoe and we will attempt a compromise. Whether or not I bought the canoe, I had to pass out payment in trade goods periodically during the process of building in order to keep up the temperature as it were. It was at last built and a little ceremony or two, the lauching etc. etc. The place of honour was the steersman. A special long paddle was presented to me. I have it here and will offer it to the British Museum if you wish. I know of nobody who as a "white man" was [?] "trusted" to command such a ship. You can easily see I have a swelled head as well as a love for the whole story. And then of course I let the whole side down. The expedition never took place. But the object to be of the trip was carried out more in accodance with the view of C. M. Woodford, my boss. Of course all this is rather private and confidential and Mahaffy is dead. C. M. Woodford too. But they hardly knew just how the canoe got built and why. Then in a few years Mr. William Lever came to visit his estates in the Solomons, called upon me, saw the canoe and through his managers in Sydney he later offered to buy the canoe. I parted with it. I could hardly take it home with me. Mr Lever, later on Sir William, then Lord Leverhulme. More yarns could be told about the canoe but you will think I am wandering in my mind. I have two more photographs of my beloved canoe and will send them to you as you think best but I do wish to have the photos returned to me after you have taken your copies. If you think the paddle will be a nice accompaniment I will send it to you. Of course the canoe is yours. But whether it is yours or Lord Leverhulme's I feel a love for it still and call it mine.
R. Brodhurst Hill.
XX The revenue for administration of that country reached £10 000 after my appointment. I only drew my share!
Graham Baines, employed by Western Solomons provincial government in Gizo, obtained the following information on the canoe, given in a letter to Ben Burt of the British Museum (Museum of Mankind) in 1983, after Burt had sent him photos of it:
There has been considerable excitement among some of the old men of Vella at seeing these photographs. And a little more information about the canoe in London is now at hand. I have been told that it was one of a pair built by a man named Jiosi Angele at Njava in Vella, and its name was probably "Lotu". This word "lotu" was brought to the Solomons by Fijian missionaries. It is a word which refers generally to the christian church, or to prayer.
Photos of the canoe in Vella Lavella from Brodhurst-Hill are registered as Oc-B6.4 and photos as stored in the Lady Lever Gallery bicycle shed in Liverpool on its arrival in Britain are registered as Oc-B35-1, Oc-B35-2, Oc-B35-3.
The canoe is described, with photos of its internal structure and its exhibition in the British Museum, in Haddon (1937) Canoes of Oceania vol.2 pp.108-109.
In 2008 the canoe was scanned digitally by the Anthropology Department of University College London for the Pacific Alternatives project led by Edvard Hviding of the University of Bergen. The scanned images will be available on the Western Solomons Research Database website, and some of the photos attached here were taken at that time. A CD rom was produced and a copy was taken back to Vella Lavella in the Solomon Islands, where it has been viewed by many. See: Hess, M., Robson, S., Millar, F. S., Were, G., Hviding, E., Berg, A. C. (2009). Niabara - the Western Solomon Islands War Canoe at the British Museum. 15th International Conference on Virtual Systems and Multimedia (VSMM 2009). ( pp.41-46). IEEE Computer Society. http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1305320/
See also: Hviding, E., 2013. War Canoes of the Western Solomons (Chapter 4), in: Burt, B., Bolton, L. (Eds.), The Things We Value: Culture and History in Solomon Islands. Sean Kingston Publishing, Oxford, UK.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Register reads: Given by the Trustees of Lady Lever Art Gallery. c/o S. Davidson Esq, the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Cheshire.
Register reads: Canoe was built at GUAVA on the island of VELLA LAVELLA, GIZO district. Collected about 1910 by R. Brodhurst-Hill, then an officer of the Administration (see correspondence 1964 and Eth. Doc. 1131) After being acquired by Brodhurst-Hill about 1910, it was purchased from him in 1913 by William Lever of Levers Pacific Plantations on a world tour including Solomon Islands. It was kept in the Lady Lever Gallery, Port Sunlight, although never displayed there, before being given to the British Museum in 1927 (see A. West (1992) The History of the Ethnography Collections of W. H. Lever. Journal of the History of Collections 4:2 pp.273-283). It was displayed in the British Museum's Pacific gallery until the Ethnography Department moved out of the British Museum in the 1970s to Burlington Gardens.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number