An image of Nguzunguzu or Toto isu (canoe figurehead)

Solomon Islands people

(Solomon Islands  – )

Nguzunguzu or Toto isu (canoe figurehead)

Other titles:
nguzu nguzu, musu musu, canoe prow ornament
Not on display
Further information

In the Solomon Islands, long plank-built war canoes are revered for their size, speed and splendour. Stained black and inlaid with white nautilus shell, the outer length of the canoe's raised prow is festooned with large cowrie shells. At the bow, carved anthropomorphic figureheads are lashed just above the waterline. Appropriate rituals accompany the construction and decoration of these canoes, which are still made today.

Before missionisation, war canoes were used in head-hunting raids – the small head held in the hands of this figure emphasises its role as a symbol of head-hunting. One of the first works to enter the Pacific collection, this carving was purchased from a private collection in Sydney and closely resembles a late 1800s 'nguzunguzu' from Roviana Lagoon, in Geneva's Barbier-Mueller Museum.

[entry from Exhibition Guide for 'Melanesian art: redux', 2018, cat no 1]

Place of origin
New Georgia Island, Solomon Islands
Cultural origin
Solomon Islands people
early 20th century
Sculpture, Woodwork
wood, black dye, nautilus shell inlay
32.5 x 23.0 x 14.0 cm
Purchased 1962
Accession number
© Solomon Islands people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics