Nukuoro atoll; Polynesian outliers, Micronesia
H. 31 cm – W. 54 cm


Provenance:  U. Horstmann collection, Switzerland

This model of coconut grater is specific to the Nukuoro atoll. The seat, oval and concave, is supported by two pairs of solid legs, one of which is missing here at the back. Located outside the Polynesian Triangle, the isolated atolls of Nukuoro and Kapingamarangi are Micronesia’s only enclaves of Polynesian language and culture. The atoll of Nukuoro was discovered by the Spanish  Monteverde in 1806 and then counted some 150 to 200 inhabitants. Forty-six small islets are scattered over three-quarters of a circular lagoon; the vegetation is abundant, the soils fertile and the lagoon rich in resources. The inhabitants live mainly from fishing and the cultivation of taro and copra. During the following decades, few ships will stop at Nukuoro. It was in 1870 that a trading post and the first evangelization missions were established. The limited collections of ethnographic objects from this atoll of Polynesian culture lost in Micronesia are limited to a few types of utilitarian objects such as hooks and other fishing utensils, canoes, coconut cups and graters, adzes ending in blades of tridacne, braided mats using looms or wooden bowls of the Polynesian kumete type. Nevertheless, the imprint of the atoll of Nukuoro remains forever in the history of art, leaving us the extraordinary corpus of the tino idols of Nukuoro, often compared to Cycladic art, whether the impressive strength of the monumental tino called Kawe from the War Memorial Museum in Auckland or those from the Museum Für Völkerkunde in Hamburg or Leipzig.

Photos © Hughes Dubois

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