Bifacial spearhead; wood. Big Nambas people, Malakula, Vanuatu; late 19th century.
Bifacial Spearhead, Big Nambas people, Malakula, Vanuatu, Eastern Melanesia These two-faced carved wooden spearheads have come to be regarded as one of the great forms of ni-Vanuatu sculpture. They were much admired and copied by European modern artists of the early 20th Century, because they represent the human face in a strong and abstract style. They originate in the northwestern part of Malakula Island among the Big Nambas people, and are never found complete in museum collections. On Malakula, this wooden fore-shaft was socketed into a thicker bamboo shaft up to three metres long, and two long, projecting wooden ‘cheeks’ above clasped a long point of human bone, cut from one of the leg-bones of a senior male relative of the owner. When a Big Nambas man decided to sell such a thrusting spear to foreigners, he always removed the treasured bone point to be re-set in the replacement fore-shaft he carved. Wood. Late 19th Century. Provenance unknown.