Maohi people / Fly Whisk Handle / 18th CenturyMaohi people
Fly Whisk Handle
18th Century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Pacific; Polynesian
Creator Name-CRT: Maohi people
Title: Fly Whisk Handle
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1700
Creation End Date: 1799
Creation Date: 18th Century
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Implements
Materials and Techniques: Whale ivory, coconut fiber
Dimensions: L. 11 3/4 in. (27.9 cm)
AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1978.412.875
Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1965

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.

AMICA ID: MMA_.1978.412.875
AMICA Library Year: 2000
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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