PAIR OF 19TH C. FIJIAN CANNIBAL FORKS
Period/Date: 19th Century
Materials: dense ironwood (vesi)
Description: This pair of cannibal forks "Ai cula ni bokola" is presented on a custom bronze display stand. They are carved by the same hand and were collected at the same time. It is uncommon to see forks with two tines, like the example on the left, but they do exist in smaller numbers. They show appropriate age and use and have an overall dry varied patina with high places where they were handled most. Their tines are original and there is no restoration, however, one has a glued mend as seen in the photo.
Fiji had a 2500 year history of active cannibalism which ended in the mid 1800's. Wooden forks like this were sacred relics kept in a spirit house when not in use. They would have been used by attendants during ritual feasts to feed Chiefs and Priests considered too holy to touch food.
Related Examples can be seen in plate 101 of "Art and Artefacts of the Pacific, The James Hooper Collection" and page 162 of "The Fuller Collection of Pacific Artifacts"
Dimensions: Height: 11.25-11.5" (29.5 cm), Width 1.5" (4 cm)