RARE DIMINUTIVE 19TH C. ZOOMORPHIC TONGAN KAVA BOWL
Period/Date: First half of the 19th century
Materials: Dense hardwood (sacred vesi wood?)
Description: Here's a highly unusual, rare form, kava bowl of small compact proportions having beautiful color. The position of its short pod feet and sloping pierced lug give the bowl a distinctive animal presence maybe representing a Turtle or Pig? The movement and character of the piece changes substantially when viewed from different angles and elevations. It is very expressive and quite magical! The exact context it was used in is not fully known but it is clear it was a special piece. At a regular "kava" party, a coconut was used to pass the drink around a circle "'alofi". Given the diminutive size of this bowl, it was obviously not large enough to prepare kava or use as a serving bowl. Its likely that a special receptacle like this example was required for a "formal" kava circle where high ranking individuals were in attendance like Priests and Chiefs. The bowl is clearly imbued with vast "mana" and has seen long steady use. Its interior has a semi-encrusted patina with kava patination. The marks on the outside of its surface suggest a coral rasp was used together with stone polishing. It has a dark brown patina turning to red. Given the luster on its underside, it probably received an application of wax or varnish at some point. It has an old glued mend to a section of the back rim and to the left side of the lug head. The wood is all original with no restoration. It has other various hairline age cracks and imperfections.
Dimensions: Length 8 3/8" (21.5 cm), Width 5" (13.5 cm), Height 3.5" (9 cm)