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A remarkable diversity of clubs (iwau) and spears (moto) were produced in Fiji in the 19th century. Spears were among the most technically accomplished of all Fijian carvings and were exported throughout Western Polynesia.

Weapons were not simply used for warfare. They were powerful symbols of authority, masculinity and the sanction of ancestral gods. Clubs and spears were central to the performance of a number of dances (meke), and they were often adorned with brightly coloured pigments, fresh leaves, wool or parrot features. They were also presented to chiefs as a pledge of a new alliance and exchanged at solevu.

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Drawing. A.J.L. Gordon, March 1876. Pen and ink drawing of three warriors from the Highlands of Viti Levu, wearing a barkcloth loincloth (malo) and holding a club, a spear and a musket. Z 4144


Barbed fighting spear with fine coir cord (magimagi) binding below the head.

Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji. Collected by A. von Hügel, 1875-77. Z 3949

Moto vakavai

Javelin-type fighting spear with four sting-ray tails at the head. The carving of the shaft into a long two-pronged fork is very unusual.

Fiji. Collected by A. Maudslay, 1875-80. Z 3898


The head is composed of wooden cones of increasing size and decorated with an incised grid-like pattern.

Fiji. Collected by Sir A. Gordon, 1875-80. Z 3909

Moto balaka

The shaft of this javelin-type fighting spear is bound with red and black magimagi forming decorative patterns.

Originally from Fiji. Acquired by A. von Hügel in London, c. 1900. Z 3901


The head of this fighting spear is carved with very sharp barbs. The shaft is bound with fine coir cords forming a diamond pattern. This spear was given to Baron Anatole von Hügel by Cakobau’s son, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, as payment for a wager.

Bau, Fiji. Presented to A. von Hügel by Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, 5 October 1876. Z 3954

Duri motodua

This javelin-type spear is bound with small strips of pandanus leaf and very fine plaited coir cords forming a circular pattern.

Verata, Rewa River, Viti Levu, Fiji. Collected by A. von Hügel, 1875-77. Z 3895


The upper part of the shaft is bound with coir cords and small white shell beads.

Fiji. Collected by A. Maudslay, 1875-80. Z 3928