- Museum number
Finely plaited pandanus fibre canoe sail consisting of narrow horizontal panels sewn together with double lines of stitching. Lower edge in vandyke (toothed) pattern, outer edge curving to point at top. Edges of panels turned over and sewn in place with two rows of running stitch in plaited pandanus fibre cord. Lower hem secured with plaited fibre oversewn with a slanted stitch. Fibre loops positioned at intervals along vertical sides. Upper corner has rope loop attached, with piece of coarse barkcloth tied in. Lower corners have similar rope and barkcloth. Sail decorated with several horizontal lines of closely spaced holes. Plaited darker geometric design possibly of hibiscus fibre at lower end, and, to lesser extent, near upper edge.
- Production date
- 1800 (pre)
Length: 515 centimetres (approx.)
Length: 440 centimetres (of tyvek roll)
Width: 366 centimetres (approx.)
- Curator's comments
Information from Pacific Art in Detail: This triangular canoe sail from the eastern Pacific is a rare survivor from the era of inter-island voyaging. Voyaging canoes for long-distance migration and trade would typically have double hulls, a plateform and a hut to shelter the crew, livestock and supplies. Lashed between two masts, the widest part of the triangle was placed at the top.
Like most Pacific sails, il would have been plaited by women, using fine strips of pandanus leaf and possibly hibiscus fibre for the rows of darker geometric patterning. The sail was given strengh and structure by being constructed of long, overlapping mats, each progressively shorter.
In Polynesia, production of sails had mostly ended by the mid-1800s. There are three early Polynesian sails at the British Museum. Each informs the practice of Pacific Islanders and others working on reclaiming the skills of making and sailing voyaging canoes.
(See also Oc1999,Q.139 and Oc,NZ.147)
No old labels or markings.
- Not on display
- Very fragile. Conservation in scheduled for spring 2009.
- Acquisition notes
- The sail probably reached the Museum in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. It has been in storage over the years, in the Museum’s reserve collection, until curators Dorota Starzecka and Jill Hasell recognised its significance and initiated a program of conservation. It was assessed, conserved and documented in exceptional detail in 2007-2008.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number