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Samoan Material Culture

Coconut Stalk Clubs

Coconut Stalk Clubs

The coconut-stalk name used by Churchill (5, p. 56) is retained instead of using coconut leaf midrib which is meant. Mention has been made of the use of the actual coconut leaf midrib in the sport of club fighting. As the sporting form was used by skilled champions on ceremonial occasions of importance, it is natural that the coconut stalk became a structural pattern for weapons of hard wood to be used in real fighting. (See Plate LI, 7.)

The structural pattern was adzed out as already described with an expanded bilateral blade diminishing in width towards the proximal end where it ran into a rounded shaft. The technique of adzing from the middle line towards the side edges left median longitudinal edges, yet even here the influence of the coconut midrib pattern is apparent. The coconut midrib in the part used as a weapon has a marked convexity on one side while the other is concave merging into a flat surface. In cross section, the well made club in Plate LI, 7 does not form an even lozenge, but one surface is much flatter than the other.

The distal end is cut across to comply with the structural pattern. In most clubs, the end follows the pattern literally by being concave from side to page 590side, but it may form an obtuse angle or be straight. In a few clubs, the end may project outwards slightly in the middle line, a blunt angle being formed by the meeting of two straight lines. (See fig. 308, b.) The concave or blunt end of the coconut clubs is a distinct feature. The slight projection that sometimes occurs is never carried out to form a curved point such as occurs in some Tongan clubs with a tendency to a coconut stalk blade.

Ribs. In thick clubs, the lateral edges are correspondingly blunter, and in some, no attempt has been made to form a sharp edge. Such clubs are not so liable to nick at the edges. In clubs with thinner edges, the blade is strengthened by having raised ribs running across it at intervals. The ribs form wide bands raised above the general surface of the club and projecting at the side edges. A rib at the distal end is constant and widest, while the others diminish in width towards the shaft. The ribs may be left as plain raised bands (fig. 308, c) but they are more usually serrated by cutting parallel V-shaped grooves over their surfaces in line with the long axis of the ribs. The ribs are thus converted into a series of sharp-edged ridges crossing the blade and projecting beyond the lateral edges as sharp points corresponding to the number of ridges. The ribs not only strengthen the blade, but the projecting points improve the efficiency of the club as a weapon. The direction of the ribs conforms to the type of the distal end, which naturally influences the distal rib which bounds it. The other ribs take their direction from the distal one. With a straight distal end, the ribs are straight from side edge to side edge. With a concave or angled distal end encroaching inwards on the middle line, the distal rib has to follow suit and the grooving results in a series of chevrons with the apices directed proximally towards the handle. This is the commonest form. With the distal end projecting outwards in the middle line, the ribs also follow suit and chevrons are formed with their apices distal.

Subtypes. The treatment of the blade with, or without ribs, and the type of ribs results in four subtypes of coconut leaf club: a, without ribs; b, with straight ribs; c, with oblique ribs with the chevron apices proximal; d, with oblique ribs with the chevron apices distal. The types of distal ends and ribs are shown in figure 308.

In all subtypes, the flared handle and the perforated lug are constant features. When the lug is broken, an oblique hole may be bored through under the flared edge of the proximal end.

Variants. Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 216) figures a club in which the oblique ribs alternate in direction. Edge-Partington (10, vol. 1, 69, no. 4) figures a curious club in which the slope of the coconut stalk distal end is repeated in a continuous series from the blade. Both variants are shown in figure 308.

The shaping of raised ribs by cutting away the wood between them is technically termed tongi, or tongitongi. Churchill (5, p. 56) gives the name page 591of the coconut stalk club as lapalapa which is the name of the coconut leaf midrib forming the structural pattern. In Savaii, the coconut stalk clubs with raised ribs are termed uatongi from the technique of carving the ribs. The term lapalapa applies to the plain subtype representing the original coconut stalk and uatongi to the later developed subtypes with ribs.

Figure 308.—Types of coconut stalk clubs:

Figure 308.—Types of coconut stalk clubs:

a, coconut stalk structural pattern, broad distal end (1) concave from side to side, blade diminishing gradually to shaft without any shoulder; b, coconut stalk club, subtype a without ribs on blade but one short rib (2) at junction with shaft, no shoulder, distal end (1) projects slightly outwards in the middle line, flared proximal end with suspensory lug (3); c, coconut stalk club in Bishop Museum (8934) subtype b with 2 straight ribs (2), one at distal end 5 inches wide, 2 inches thick in middle line, and 2.5 inches in depth; second smaller rib near proximal end; both ribs ungrooved, distal one carved with small triangles and proximal incised with parallel lines; distal end (1) straight and shoulders (4) a short distance below proximal rib; proximal end flared and with suspensory lug (3). Length of blade to shoulder, 21 inches; total length, 33.5 inches. d, Coconut stalk club in Bishop Museum (8697); subtype b, with straight ribs (2); distal end including rib, 4 inches wide, 1.5 inches thick in middle line and depth of rib, 2.9 inches; ribs five in number and all grooved to form points projecting 0.3 inch beyond lateral edge of blade; the number of ridged points in each rib commencing distally are 9, 9, 8, 5 and 3. Distal end (1) straight; proximal end flared but suspensory lug broken off. Length of blade to proximal rib, 19 inches; total length, 43.5 inches. e, Coconut stalk club, subtype c with chevron ribs with apices proximal (2), arranged in five bands; distal end (1) concave; proximal end flared with suspensory lug (3); no shoulder; width of distal end, 3.5 inches; thickness in middle line, 1.75 inches; length of blade, 19 inches; total length, 40.5 inches. f, Club of subtype d with chevron ribs with apices distal, figured by Edge-Partington (10, vol. 1, 71, No. 5); ribs, 8 in number, grooved. Distal end (1) conforms to distal rib with slight projection outwards. Proximal end flared and has suspensory lug (3). Length,. 46 inches. g, Variant figured by Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 216) in which the chevron ribs (2) alternate in direction of apices; shoulder (4) present; distal end (1), concave; proximal end flared and with suspensory lug (.3); narrow bands of sennit braid spaced on handle. h, Aberrant form figured by Edge-Partington (10, vol. 1, 69, No. 4), with thick distal end (1) of coconut stalk pattern repeated in a continuous series; proximal end flared and with suspensory lug (3); length, 38.5 inches.