matakau (Figure)

About this object


According to Burnett, this figure is made of a type of wood not found in the Gilbert Islands and was said to have been brought there in the canoe of the very first Gilbert Islanders. It was said to represent a Chief's daughter who was protected from shark attacks, who represents the Shark God. The piece was said to have been found enthroned as an object of worship in the 'House of Skulls' in 1892. It was said to have been hidden away until 1898 when it was given to an Australian captain by its caretaker.

Iconographic meaning

Shark god figure

Physical description

Standing female figure with carved oblong base. Figure has inlaid yellow-white shells for eyes and navel, and has pierced ears on sides of head just below her cheeks.