Kokorra Canoe Paddles (pair) (SE001)
Description of item:
Solomon Bougainville Buka Passage kokorra canoe paddles, quintessential iconic brilliant early Solomon examples. Extremely rare multi design elements on both sides of blades. Deep rich age patina on handle. Paint work in superb state of preservation. Banyan tree aerial root, full traditional style; both paddles are adorned on one side with a kokorra figure; 1870’s – 1880’s.
Length: 173 cm (68 inches); paddle length: 90 cm (35.4 inches; Width: 15 cm (6 inches)
Length: 165 cm (65 inches); paddle length: 85 cm (33.4 inches; Width: 16 cm (6.2 inches)
Figures height: 40 cm (15.5 inches).
The decorative arts of Nissan, Buka and Bougainville islands are remarkable for their refined lines and strong graphic qualities. The leit-motif of northwestern Solomon art is a category of stylized human figures collectively called kokorra. This is also the name of a powerful spirit associated with some men’ secret societies and masking traditions in the region. Several kokorra images may appear in a single work, suggesting that the term refers to a type of spirit rather than an individual being. The kokorra are typically depicted as frontal seated figures with flexed limbs splayed out to the sides. Although they represent supernatural beings, kokorra are shown dressed in the bulbous coiffures or ritual headdresses (hassebou) and ear ornaments worn by local men. Painted paddles were reportedly used with the side with the most important designs facing the paddler, affording a measure of supernatural assistance, protecting the paddle’s owner from both physical and supernatural hazards. Such painted paddles show little evidence of use, suggesting that they were ceremonial rather than functional objects.
Kjellgren, E. ‘Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’, (2007: 165).
Waite, D. ‘Art of the Solomon Islands from the Collection of the Barbier-Müller Museum’, (1983: 19).
Arthur Palmer, Brisbane, Australia.