Casuarina equisetifolia wood
Presumed date of manufacture: 19th century
Jean-Yves Coué Collection, Nantes
This club is remarkable for its size, its massive weight and the exceptional size of its blade. It is engraved on each side with a hatched pattern separated by vertical lines interrupted by a horizontal half-band at the spur. The smooth handle has a small rebound at the tip.
Commonly referred to as a gunstock club by Westerners for its supposed resemblance to a rifle, this form of club was in use long before the introduction of firearms to the islands in the early 19th century.
According to Clunie, “the name of these magnificent clubs comes from the sali flower of a wild banana-like plant (musa species) that grows in the Fijian bush. The blade-like cheeks of this club were designed to cut flesh and bone rather than break it. It has been claimed in recent years that the spur was used like the totokia club to pierce the skull of the enemy.” He adds, “Widely used for dancing, like other spur clubs, the cali was often held at spur level by dancers.”
However, the enormous weight of our club suggests that it was used more for warfare than for dancing.
This exceptional cali is the work of a master craftsman, who has perfectly mastered form and volume in the flowing lines and convex and concave surfaces that characterize it.
We know of only one other example of this size among the 108 cali clubs2 sold at auction worldwide since 1985
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