Welcome to Fiji

Missle Club (I ula tavatva)

Fijian men stuck throwing clubs into the waistbands of their loincloths in order to have easy access to a personal short-range weapon. If thrown with enough force, the club stunned or injured the enemy, who could then be killed close up with a blow to the head. The club’s distribution of weight, its proportions and symmetry reduced air resistance and balanced it for greater accuracy and impact. Although there has been some discussion on this point, it was almost certainly the heavy head of the club that hit the victim. The head of this club, with its smooth knobby serrations, is carved from the root of a young tree, the slender trunk of which forms the handle.

Examples of i ula throwing clubs can be lined up to form a sequence of head styles, from plain balls to broadly carved knobs to finely carved fluted decoration. Some 19th and early 20th century writers theorized that this continuum represented an evolutionary development from crude to complex, the later stages of which were made possible by the introduction of metal tools. In fact, however, a Fijian craftsman (matai) could carve the head however he wished, limited only by the shape of the root, his personal skills, and the desired result. To make this club the craftsman carved and sanded a root into smooth broad knobs. Small fissures and irregularities in the knobs reveal the structure of the underlying root.

-Julia Berenson, Class of '07