Canoe Figurehead (Nguzu Nguzu, Musu Musu, or Toto Isu)
Not on view
Canoes in the western Solomon Islands were essential to transportation, fishing, and warfare. In former times, they were lavishly adorned. The centerpiece of the prow was a distinctive figurehead, known variously as a nguzu nguzu, musu musu, or toto isu. Attached at the waterline so that it dipped in the sea as the canoe rode the waves, the figurehead reportedly served as a supernatural protector, ensuring safe passage and a successful expedition. The images are typically busts depicted with large heads wearing circular ear ornaments and small arms with the hands raised to the chin or clasping a head or bird. The jutting jaws of the images were reportedly attributes of spirits, and nguzu nguzu are sometimes said to depict, or
afford protection from, dangerous sea spirits called kesoko.
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