Oceania, Polynesia, Tonga Islands, ca. 18th to 19th century CE. A massive wooden feast bowl, with a long, low profile, made using a stone adze. The surface has a rich patina and signs of use on its interior. Small remains of red pigment are on the underside of the shallowest end. The wood is likely mahogany or a similar wood. Deep scores in the wood attest to its importance as a useful object in traditional Tongan society. This bowl was made to be used for ritual feasting, especially the 'inasi or first fruits festival. Size: 12.7" W x 28" H (32.3 cm x 71.1 cm); 33" H (83.8 cm) on included custom stand.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, and for a time into the 19th century after, the 'inasi festival was the most opulent in Tongan society. One recorded in the 19th century saw the arrival of tribute from as far away as Uvea, ca. 870 kilometers distant from Tonga. Thousands of people attended, and brought tribute - yams, pearls, textiles, weapons, animals, and food - all to give tribute to Hikule'o, a goddess who was, among other things, the guardian of the underworld. 'inasi was also a fertility festival, with kahokaho - a type of yam - given to her as offerings in its most phallic form so that she could become fruitful and produce a harvest. The shape of this vessel suggests it may have been used to hold the kahokaho.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-David DeRoche collection, Piedmont, California, USA
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Surface has extensive signs of wear and weathering as shown with a rich patina from use.