Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Canoe Figurehead (Nguzu Nguzu, Musu Musu, or Toto Isu)

Date:
late 19th–early 20th century
Geography:
Solomon Islands, New Georgia Island possibly, Western province
Culture:
New Georgia Island (?)
Medium:
Wood, paint, shell
Dimensions:
H. 5 1/2 x W. 4 1/2 in. (14 x 11.4 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
Gift of Morris J. Pinto, 1976
Accession Number:
1976.351
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
Canoes in the western Solomon Islands were essential to transportation, fishing, and warfare. In former times, they were lavishly adorned. The centerpiece of the prow was a distinctive figurehead, known variously as a nguzu nguzu, musu musu, or toto isu. Attached at the waterline so that it dipped in the sea as the canoe rode the waves, the figurehead reportedly served as a supernatural protector, ensuring safe passage and a successful expedition. The images are typically busts depicted with large heads wearing circular ear ornaments and small arms with the hands raised to the chin or clasping a head or bird. The jutting jaws of the images were reportedly attributes of spirits, and nguzu nguzu are sometimes said to depict, or
afford protection from, dangerous sea spirits called kesoko.
Morris J. Pinto, New York, until 1976

Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, 100, 170-1.

Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 82.



Related Objects

Shield (Grere'o [?])

Date: early to mid-19th century Medium: Fiber, parinarium-nut paste, chambered-nautilus shell, pigment Accession: 1978.412.730 On view in:Not on view

Canoe Figurehead (Nguzu nguzu, Musu musu, or Toto Isu)

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, chambered nautilus shell, paint Accession: 1979.206.1425 On view in:Not on view

Ceremonial Staff (Wari Hau)

Date: 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, chambered-nautilus shell, fiber, paint Accession: 1999.47.48 On view in:Gallery 354

Shell Plaque (Barava)

Date: 19th–early 20th century Medium: Tridacna shell Accession: 1979.206.1427 On view in:Gallery 354

Shell Plaque (Barava)

Date: 19th–early 20th century Medium: Tridacna shell Accession: 1979.206.1424 On view in:Gallery 354