Watch a video to find out.
Stay logged in
Go to Navigation
Go to Content
Go to Search
Back to browse highlights
Image (To'o) representing the deity 'Oro
Figure ( Ti'i)
Pipe Bowl (Epaepa or Pioro)
Ivory Ear Ornaments (Hakakai)
Browse current and upcoming exhibitions and events.
This artwork is currently on display in Gallery 353
Like other Polynesian peoples, the Maohi (Tahitians) live in a ranked society which is divided into "chiefs" and "commoners." Chiefly status is inherited and, until the early nineteenth century, many Maohi chiefs carried ceremonial fly whisks and other objects as symbols of their rank. This elaborately carved fly whisk handle belonged to the Maohi King Pomare II, who gave it to the Rev. Thomas Haweis in 1818. Tipped with a bundle of long fibers, now missing, the whisk was used to shoo flies from the king and his food on important occasions.Pomare II's fly whisk handle is constructed entirely of sections of ivory, an extremely valuable material that was used almost exclusively by individuals of chiefly rank. Since the only source of ivory in pre-European times was the teeth of stranded whales, ivory was extremely scarce and large ivory objects such as this one would have been comparable to the crown jewels of European monarchies.
King Pomare II of Tahiti, until 1818; Rev. Thomas Haweis; [Maggs Bros., Ltd., London, until ca. 1958]; [Brooks Art Originals, Ltd., New Canaan, Conn., until 1965]; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1865–1978
© 2000–2013 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved.