, Tahi'i [fan] Enlarge 1 /3
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Marquesas Islands Tahi'i [fan] 1800-1850 Place made: Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia Polynesia
Materials & Technique: fibrework, fans, wood, pandanus, coconut fibre
Dimensions: 38.0 h x 30.0 w x 2.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1972
Accession No: NGA 72.641

Tahuata Island had a reputation for the finest fans in the Marquesas Islands. Beautiful works in miniature, such as this fan, were produced as high-prestige objects, made in this case by an expert artist (tuhuna) skilled in fan-making for the aristocracy. To create a strong impact the woven blades were whitened with lime, making the fan visible over great distances to indicate the owner’s importance at gatherings and festivals.

As the intricately plaited fan blades damaged easily, complete blades, as seen in this example, are rare. The blades would have been replaced regularly, but the handle would be carefully kept as an heirloom.

A series of robust figures with the large goggle eyes typical of Marquesan art adorn the handle. Each figure represents Tiki, the god of creation, who came from the land of the gods, Havai’i. Similar fans were first described by Captain Cook in 1774. Given the elaborate design of its handle, however, this fan was probably made in the early nineteenth century.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

Tahuata Island had a reputation for making the finest fans in the Marquesas Islands. Beautiful works in miniature, such as this fan, were produced as high-prestige objects, made in this case by an expert artist (tuhuna) skilled in fan making for the aristocracy. To create a strong impact the woven blades were whitened with lime, making the fan visible over great distances to indicate the owner’s importance at gatherings and festivals.

As the intricately plaited fan blades damaged easily, complete blades, as seen in this example, are rare. The blades were replaced regularly but the handle was carefully kept as an heirloom.

A series of robust figures with the large goggle eyes typical of Marquesan art adorn the handle. Similar fans were first described by Captain Cook in 1774. Given the elaborate design of its handle, however, this fan was probably made in the early nineteenth century.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014