Pyrograved senior man's bamboo staff, which would have been stuffed with magically protective herbs. The surface images include depictions of local men fishing from boats, French sailors in bell-bottomed trousers smoking pipes, men wielding axes and muskets, and so on.
Engraved Bamboo Staff, Kare U Ta, Grande Terre, New Caledonia. Little is known for certain about these remarkable objects engraved by the Kanak people of New Caledonia. They were generally carried by older males and those of chiefly status, and they were often stuffed with herbs believed to provide the bearer with protection from sorcery attacks. In general, connoisseurs of Pacific art admire kare u ta for the fascinating range of depictions incised on them. Because the societies of Oceania were non-literate before the influence of Christian missionaries, pictorial art forms like this take on a privileged position as historical sources. It is unlikely that they were intended to fulfil this purpose, but we are fortunate that they do. What we encounter are images conveying a world in transition: traditional activities and artefacts such as fishing, wildlife, spears, clubs, etc. are found alongside images of tall ships, men in bell-bottomed trousers smoking pipes, axes, muskets, and so on. Bamboo. Late 19th century. Purchased on the London art market in 1909.