Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Deity figure (standing) made of dark, polished wood. Forearms broken off, many toes missing. A panel on upper left side of head is held in with wooden pegs. Upper part of left ear is pierced with a circular hole.

  • Ethnic name

  • Date

    • 18thC (late) - 19thC (early)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 115 centimetres
    • Width: 33 centimetres
    • Depth: 20 centimetres
    • Height: 133.5 centimetres (special box)
    • Width: 48.9 centimetres (special box)
    • Depth: 36.3 centimetres (special box)
  • Curator's comments

    Said to be the god Rongo. Steven Hooper, in Pacific Encounters, BMP 2006, cat. no. 118, states the panel on the head, which is made of the same wood, is probably a replacement panel to cover a flaw in the original block.Hooper 2006
    This impressive figure in heavy wood is one of few which survived the iconoclasm of the conversion period on Mangareva in the mid-1830s. Several were sent back to Europe by Father Caret with a numbered list that has helped identify them (Buck, P.H [Te Rangi Hiroa]., 1938, 'Ethnology of Mangareva', Bulletin 1857. Honolulu: B.P. Bishop Museum: 460-67; Buck, 'Mangarevan images', Ethnologia Cranmorensis, 4: 13-19.). This figure is not among them, having been acquired by the LMS. The forearms are broken, possibly as a result of casual attempts to move it, which may account for similar damage to other examples. The left upper side of the head has a carefully made replacement panel of the same wood, pegged in with wood dowels, probably made to cover a flaw in the original block. Little is known of the role in indigenous religion of figures of this kind, but in a temple in 1826 Belcher saw a platform 'elevated about three feet from the ground; in the centre of which was an idol three feet high, neatly carved and polished; the eyebrows were sculptured but not the eyes' (Beechey, F.W., 1831, 'Narrative of a voyage round the world, performed in Her Majesty's ship Sulphur during the years 1836-1842,' London: Henry Colburn :I: 122-3. Belcher also noted that it had a turban of barkcloth and was surrounded by offerings.


  • Bibliography

    • Hooper 2006 118 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G2/fc158

  • Exhibition history

    2006 21 May-13 Aug, Norwich, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Pacific Encounters
    2006-2007 28 Sept-7 Jan, London, BM, Power and Taboo
    2008 16 Jun-14 Sep, Paris, Musée du quai Branly, Pacific Encounters
    2009, Paris, Musée du quai Branly, Mangareva: Pantheon de Polynesie
    2014 Oct 14 - London, BM, G2, 'Collecting the World'

  • Condition

    Forearms broken off, many toes missing, some portions of wood loss on chest and side, some cracks, including one running from neck to chest, but basically sound.

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Hooper 2006: Ex. London Missionary Society Collection; on loan 1890, purchased 1911.

  • Department

    Africa, Oceania & the Americas

  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • Oc1890,Loan (originally loaned to BM in 1890 by LMS)
    • Oc1911C27.99 (old CDMS no.)
COMPASS Title: Wooden figure of a deity


COMPASS Title: Wooden figure of a deity

Image description



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