Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1813 Marquesan toa
Subjecttoa warrior
Culture: Marquesan
Setting: tribal warfare, Marquesas Islands early-mid 19thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Art in Oceania 2012 p263
"[W]ar ... in the Marquesas ... had been endemic since probably the fifteenth century.  Unlike Polynesian societies such as Tonga and Hawai'i, the Marquesas were never united under a single ruling chieftainship, neither the archipelago as a whole nor its individual islands (with the exception of Ua Pou).  Rather, as Greg Dening writes, there was 'endemic warfare' between 'conglomerates of mutually antagonistic valleys, which warred singly against one another or in groups united in battle alliances."

* Adorning the world 2005 p9 (Eric Kjellgren, "Adorning the world" p2-24)
"In most cases, relationships between the mata'eina'a [autonomous valley groups] were hostile.  The people of each valley were typically in a continuous, though small-scale, state of war with their neighbors.  When mata'eina'a in adjacent or nearby valleys formed alliances, it was often to unite against a common enemy rather than to achieve a lasting peace.  Although wars of conquest were occasionally waged, particularly during the postcontact period, the primary goal of most conflicts was not to defeat the enemy but to kill or capture a victim.  Marquesans fought both to avenge earlier killings or insults and to obtain human sacrifices, or heana.  Some religious observances required that human sacrifice be offered as part of the rites.  On such occasions, the tau'a would call upon the community to provide a heana, and a military expedition would be mounted to obtain one from a neighboring valley.
    "The identity and social standing of most Marquesan men were largely determined by their achievements as warriors.  Although war parties were dispatched by the haka'iki, the actual fighting was done almost exclusively by the toa, a class of semiprofessional warriors second only to the chiefs and tau'a in their secular authority.  Many toa carried the decorated skulls of their victims as evidence of their martial prowess.  Bodies of enemies taken in vengeance were usually offered as sacrifices at the me'ae or, at times, consumed at feasts, which were typically limited to the elite.  Many Marquesans owned and used ivi po'o, ornaments fashioned from the bones of slain enemies.
    "Whether fought for revenge, heana, or a combination of factors, Marquesan warfare consisted primarily of brief skirmishes.  These took the form of both pitched battles, which were often held on the ridges that separated the valleys, and more stealthy raids on the dwellings of the enemy. In some instances, hostilities might last on and off for weeks or months before a single life was lost."

* Arts of the South Seas 1946 p34
"The Marquesans lived in innumerable small tribes each of which was habitually at war with its neighbors.  The high development of cannibalism and human sacrifice kept such wars going indefinitely.  The Marquesans were genuine man-eaters who regarded human flesh as the finest of all foods. They ate any members of an enemy tribe whom they could catch, including even infants, and frequently raided neighboring groups simply for meat.  ... Temporary truces were declared at the time of great feasts so that several tribes could be assembled to admire the hosts' generosity, but such truces frequently ended in a pitched battle.  There was no mechanism for settling feuds or establishing permanent peace.  The relatives of a person who had been eaten were socially under a cloud until they could capture and eat someone from the offending tribe.  Men who were under such a revenge obligation kept one half of their heads shaved and early European visitors record this as the normal style of masculine coiffure."

* Adorning the world 2005 p18 (Eric Kjellgren, "Adorning the world" p2-24)
"The War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain, whose battles were waged thousands of miles away, had unexpected repercussions for the Marquesas.  In 1813, an American naval officer, Capt. David Porter (1780-1843), was dispatched to the Pacific in an effort to harrass the British whaling fleet.  During the course of this mission, Porter brought the two vessels under his command, along with three captured British whaling ships, to Taioha'e.  There, he established a settlement and fort and conducted several military campaigns, including two against the people of nearby Taipivai."

* Boot 2002 p34-35
"Not long after the Americans landed and set up camp on the beach, the situation spun out of control.  The warlike Happahs renewed their attacks on the Taaehs, calling the Americans 'cowards' and threatening to steal their sails.  The natives were not impressed by test firings of the visitors' bouhies (muskets), so Porter sent Lieutenant John Downes with 40 men and a six-pound cannon into the hills to convince the Happahs 'of the folly of resisting our fire arms with slings and spears.'  Downes's contingent stumbled back later that day, 'overcome with ... fatigue.'  The small American expedition had confronted some 3,000 to 4,000 Happahs entrenched in a mountain fortress. During the attack Downes was hit with a stone in the stomach and another man took a spear in the neck, but they did manage to take the redoubt, killing five Happahs in the process.
    "The Americans' Taaeh allies clubbed to death the wounded Happahs, but did not eat them, much to the surprise of Porter, who had heard (correctly) that they were cannibals.  They did, however, put their dead enemies' bones to good use by converting them into necklaces and fan handles."


* Adorning the world 2005 p11-12 (Eric Kjellgren, "Adorning the world" p2-24)
"Owing, in large measure, to the magnificence of their tattooing and the islands' subtropical climate, Marquesans needed few clothes.  Men wore loincloths, or hami ....  [...]  Early European portraits of Marquesans at times show men wearing draped headcloths as well as capes.  Before the introduction of Western trade cloth, all Marquesan clothing was made from tapa (barkcloth), which, in contrast to the elaborate ornamentation seen in other Marquesan art forms, was nearly always unadorned.  Coarser varieties, such as the light brown form made from the bark of the breadfruit tree, or ute, was used for men's loincloths and for garments worn on special occasions.  Some head cloths made from ute were reportedly as fine as lace.  A reddish brown barkcloth known as hiapo, made from the young banyan trees (aoa), was considered sacred and was used to make the loincloths for the haka'iki, as well as the capes and robes worn by warriors and minor priests.  Darker cloaks made from the bark of older banyans were worn by the tau'a."


* Adorning the world 1995 p85-86 (Eric Kjellgren & Carol S Ivory, "Catalogue" p40-113)
"Warfare was an integral part of Marquesan life.  Weapons included slings, spears, and war clubs made of ironwood, a heavy, dense wood the Marquesans called toa, which was also the word for 'warrior.'  One type of club, the 'u'u, an effective weapon in hand-to-hand combat, also served as a symbol of pretige for chiefs and warriors."

* Stone 1934 p651-652
"U'U.  The war club of the Marquesans.  It is the largest and finest club used anywhere.  It is long, heavy and has a large carved head."

* Meyer 1995 v2 p506 f583/584
"The u'u war club was the exclusive property of the warrior caste, a group of men who also functioned as paid mercenaries for allied chiefdoms.  The clubs are huge in comparison to those of the rest of the Pacific.  They are said to have been individually tailored to reach from the ground to the owner's arm-pit.  The remarkable carved decor may at first glance appear stereotyped, but in fact each club is unique and employs endless variations and innovations on the classic motifs of the human head and face, sacred lizards, and tattoos.  The striations radiating out from the stylized eyes on the head of the club represent a tattoo motif known as >>bright eyes<< which was worn by Nuku Hiva warriors.  The clubs were left to soak in a taro field where they acquired a deep black coloration, which was heightened by rubbing with coconut oil."

* D'Alleva 2010 p112
"In the Marquesas Islands, the human body served as a source of artistic motifs, for the body symbolized the important relationship between the living and the deified ancestors, , who could bring prosperity or misfortune.  Clubs called u'u, which were the privilege of warriors, repeatedly used the head motif to enhance the warrior's mana, for the head was considered the most sacred part of the body.  The top portion of the club represents a face on each side, another example of the Janiform motif ....  A projecting crossbar extends horizontally below the large eyes, and three bands of low-relief carving, which frequently incorporate both eye and tattoo motifs, decorate the club below this bar.  The two principal faces contain facts within them, for the eyes and nose are fashioned as human heads, and the image of the faces reappears in the relief carvings below the crossbar and in a simple incised motif at the top.  With the repeated imagery of face and eye, the u'u makes rich allusions to skulls and genealogy, ancestors and sacrifice.  Tufts of gray hair fashioned from old men's beards frequently adorn the handles, reaffirming the link with ancestors."

* Art in Oceania 2012 p262
"The stylistic logic is exemplified by the much-collected war clubs, called u'u.  Made 'functionally' to inflict or threaten death or injury, they were psychologically potent objects, literally conglomerates of tiki heads and faces, powerful both through their metaphysical nature and their multiplicity.  Made from heavy ironwood, each club is slightly different, yet carved in an utterly conventional fashion.  The business end comprises a Janus face -- turn it around and the same configuration confronts you -- with large startled eyes, its pupils popping out and doubling as smaller tiki heads.  Further heads are, in some examples, inscribed at the side and on the ridge of its brow.  Yet another head typically protrudes from the centre of the crossbar where it doubles as a nose and the head of a tiki whose body has been transformed into the pattern bands that surround the club's tapering neck.  These abstractions are themselves 'transforms' of tiki motifs.  Upon completion, u'u were buried in taro patches to darken them and then polished with coconut oil."

* Arts of the South Seas 1946 p34
"A long heavy club, carved at the upper end into a highly conventionalized human face, was a regular part of every man's costume.  He carried this whenever he went out much as a European gentleman carries a cane.  This club was also used as a convenient rest to lean on when chatting with friends and its upper end was broadened and hollowed to accommodate the armpit."

* Geary ed. 2006 p144 (William E. Teel w/ Christraud M Geary & Stéphanie Xatart, "Catalogue" p36-151)
"Warfare with weapons such as clubs, spears, and slings was mainly due to territorial disputes, insults, or humiliation.  Marquesan men not only fought with such clubs but displayed them as symbols of prestige and preserved them as valued heirlooms.  The clubs are among the best-known works from the Pacific.  Since the eighteenth century, Marquesan artists have produced them for export, and many examples are now in private and museum collections."

* Greub 1988 p118
"Clubs carved with human faces were used as weapons and as status objects in the Marquesas.  The main elements of the classic janus-headed clubs are two large circular eye depressions with relief pupils that form secondary faces, a ridged cross-piece with a central 'nose' that forms a secondary face, a horizontal 'mouth' incised as another set of eyes, and two bands of incised geometric designs on either side of the 'mouth.'  The upper ridge of the club is usually incised with another face.  This emphasis on the human face, and especially the eyes, is manifested aesthetically by combining high- and low-relief horizontal bands with bilateral symmetry (in which the details are not necessarily symmetrical) and rectilinear and curvilinear motifs, set into polished negative spaces. ...  Later clubs are less sculptural and more closely related to tattoo designs without the earlier sophisticated use of negative space."


* D'Alleva 2010 p112
"In the Marquesas Islands, headdresses of turtleshell and ivory were worn by high-ranking men, of porpoise teeth by women.  Both sexes wore a variety of ivory ear ornaments that depicted tiki, ancestral figures."

* Adorning the world 1995 p9 (Eric Kjellgren, "Adorning the world" p2-24)
"Announced well in advance, pitched battles in the Marquesas were a dress occasion.  Toa went into such battles adorned in their finest and most treasured ornaments.  In some instances, haka'iki also lent their own adornments to toa to wear while they fought.  Intended to inspire fear and awe, a warrior's regalia often included imposing feather headdresses and dense embellishments of human hair worn about the shoulders, waist, and limbs that undulated wildly as he ran, creating the impression of great ferocity and speed."




* Meyer 1995 v2 p494-496
"The Marquesans were tattooed quite literally all over, including in many cases on their genitals. From the tips of their fingers and toes, into their mouths and even under the hair line, the Marquesans were living and ongoing works of art."

* Feest 1980 p70 f78
"Tattooing of the breast was thought to ward off spears and bullets."