Marquesas Islands canoe prow sails to $71,000 at Bonhams

Bonhams' African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art Auction saw excellent results for a finely carved canoe prow from the renowned Marquesas Islands.

Marquesas Islands canoe prow
The tiki rests his feet on two heads, suggesting that this may have been designed for the canoe of a warrior

The sale was held on May 15 in New York, with the prow selling as top lot for $70,900. The Marquesas Islands, located in French Polynesia, are known by collectors for their fine tribal carvings before the onset of Christianity.

The prow depicts a seated tiki (a large human-like figure found across the French Polynesian region) in classic Marquesan form, with an oversized head and eyes. The figure is incised with intricate tattooing throughout.

It was intended to decorate the fishing boats of the Marquesan people and was designed to be seen in side profile, its body carved as though it has been thrown backward by the speed of the canoe.

Senufo Ivory Coast
The Senufo people are renowned for their tall, elegant carvings

Selling in second place was a "rhythm pounder" from the Senufo people of the Ivory Coast, which made $42,500. The elegant carving (known as a deble) would have been used at various ceremonies to pound the ground, marking a rhythm for the tribe's dancers.

They are also considered a symbol of fertility, as well as a conduit to the departed at funerals.

Maori hand club
The club is different to all others due to its unique fish mouth shape

Also appearing in the sale was an "exceptional and rare" Maori hand club, which would have been used by native New Zealanders in close combat.

Decorated with mythological figures, the piece is carved in the shape of a wahaika (fish mouth) and is therefore different from any other short club. It sold for $32,500.

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