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Samoan Material Culture

Paddle Clubs

Paddle Clubs

Structural pattern. Theoretically speaking, Samoan paddle clubs should resemble Samoan canoe paddles. It has been seen, however, that the structural pattern of clubs, while following the general outline shape of the pattern motive, does not conform to it in cross section for technical reasons. Thus Samoan paddle clubs have a median longitudinal edge on either side that extends for the entire length of the blade. It has also been shown that the craftsman purposely leaves thick parts on the structural pattern to convert into cross-ribs if it suits him. The commonest form of paddle clubs are thus; characterized by cross ribs which have arisen out of structural technique independent of the pattern motive.

In the coconut stalk and banana leaf structural patterns, the general outline conformed fairly closely to that of the original pattern motive. In the paddle structural pattern a departure takes place from the outline shape of the canoe paddle motive. In the canoe paddle, the greatest width of the blade is nearer the shaft than the point and the canoe paddle shape is ovate.

In the commonest types of Samoan paddle club, the greatest width of the actual blade is nearer the distal than the shaft end. The club blade is, therefore not ovate like its original motive, but is obovate. Where the blade is too narrow to be termed obovate, the blade is oblanceolate instead of being lance-page 597olate. Thus in the "leaf form" of blade, the greatest width has deserted the position in the motive and gone forward. When the cross rib which defines the blade proximally, increases in width, the blade may tend to become "straight edged" instead of "leaf form." When the cross rib becomes extraordinarily lengthened, as in Fijian clubs, the whole appearance of blade and cross ribs is somewhat "halbert-shaped" or "hastate." Bearing in mind that the club maker is making a club instead of a canoe paddle, we can understand that a variety of forms and shapes may be made from a paddle structural pattern by the development of technique. What is lacking is a knowledge of the actual method of using each form of club, and how much use influenced the secondary shaping by the craftsman. The influence of diffusion can be indicated merely by the distribution of the various forms in the neighboring Tongan and Fijiian areas.

The paddle motive. The question is, did the Samoan craftsman recognize the paddle as a motive for a structural pattern, or are we merely attributing to him what we think? At Safotu in Savaii, I was told by the talking chief Mamea that a paddle shaped club (amuamu) made of ifilele wood was in great favor at Fangaloa in Upolu. He chanted the song of the paddle club as follows:

"Aumaia e—, Aumaia o—. "Let them come—let them come.
Ali'i e, fa'asili lau moe, O chief, rest in untroubled sleep,
Ou te olo isi a'u foe! For I am rubbing down my paddles!
Aue—saulu alo e—. Alas
Aumaia e—, Aumaia o—." Let them come—let them come.

The significance of the chant is in the third line.

The chant was that of the amuamu club, but the objects that the chanter was rubbing down (olo) were in the structural pattern form of a paddle (foe). Unfortunately the subject could not be followed up at Fangaloa itself, but the chant shows that club makers recognized the paddle as a structural pattern for clubs.

Types. There being no full sized clubs available, a selection of various forms attributed to Samoa are reproduced (fig. 312) from Edge-Partington (10, vol. 1, 70, 72) for analysis into types.

Churchill (5, p. 63) divided paddle clubs into two forms according as they were with or without a cross rib. He further distinguished carinated and serrated clubs as two types distinct from paddle clubs. Until more study material is available, it is proposed to group all clubs derived from the paddle structural pattern under the heading of paddle clubs.

Such clubs may be divided into four types: 1, without cross ribs; 2. with short cross ribs; 3. with medium length cross ribs; 4. with wide cross ribs.

page 598

Paddle clubs without cross ribs. This is a theoretical group as regards Samoa based on the idea that the structural pattern might be retained without the addition of a crossbar. Churchill's descriptive material of this type consisted of 17 clubs from Tonga and none from Samoa. Neither Edge-Partington nor Kramer figured a specimen of the type and there is none in Bishop Museum. The original structure pattern if ever used as a completed club was either totally displaced by the ribbed forms or is extremely rare.

Paddle clubs with short cross ribs. The cross rib is situated at the junction of the blade and the shaft. The rib merely defines the commencement of the blade where it diverges outwards from the shaft. The rib is so short that it merely form a rim (fig. 312, c) and there is thus no necessity for a proximal shoulder. In the type (fig. 312, b) which is doubtful, the rib is widened longitudinally. Again, while Churchill (5, p. 62) includes the type in the Samoan area, his material was all from Tonga. Kramer does not figure any examples and our own material is lacking. Edge-Partington shows four (fig. 312, a, b, c, and d) clubs which may be regarded as belonging to it, but two (a and b) are probably from Tonga in spite of the labelling. The second type of paddle club is thus not particularly available. The distinguishing feature is that owing to the shortness of the rib, there is no proximal shoulder and the blade spreads outward from the rib. The blade shape is obovate or oblanceolate.

Paddle clubs with medium cross ribs. The effect of lengthening the cross bar immediately affects the shape of the blade. While in the structural pattern, the thickening for the rib must be left across some part of the blade, the effect of the rib in the subsequent shaping is to limit the weapon blade to the part beyond it whilst the part on the proximal side becomes a shoulder connecting the cross rib with the shaft of the club. The width of the cross rib influences the width of the blade and its consequent shape into two main varieties.

Narrower leaf-shaped blade (Plate LII, A, 1). The medium width across rib is shown in figure 312 e and f. From the cross rib which defines the blade, the blade slopes inward and then gradually outward to form the "leaf shaped" blade so characteristic of the ancient Greek swords. The shape is oblanceolate, but in some, the greatest width is near the middle of the blade and gives it a somewhat elliptical form. figure 312 f is carinated.

With wider straight edged blade (Plate LII, A, 2). The wider cross rib and blade is shown in figure 312 g after Edge-Partington (10, vol. 1, p. 72 No. 4). The blade is practically as wide as the cross rib and there is only the slightest inward slope from the cross rib. The blade in consequence, is nearly straight edged. The other example (fig. 312 h) after Kramer (18, vol. 2, Pl. 77 e) is carinated, and the straight edges spring at once from the page 599crossbar. In many of this type, there is a slight curve in the sides of the blade, but not so marked as in the leaf form.

In some clubs, the surface on either side of the middle line is cut down before being slanted outwards. This converts the median longitudinal edge into a carinated ridge. The carinated ridge is confined to the blade and is not continued on the proximal side of the cross rib. Churchill seems to have included all clubs of type 3 under the term of carinated clubs which he regarded as a purely Samoan development. The strictly carinated clubs (fig. 312 f and h) are merely an accentuation of one feature and are best regarded as a variety of type 3, as "carinated" cannot well be applied to the clubs of the same type, but with no carinated ridge.

Figure 312.—Paddle clubs (types 2 and 3):

Figure 312.—Paddle clubs (types 2 and 3):

a-g, from Edge-Partington (10, vol. 1), the plate and number being given with each club figured; h, from Kramer: a, (70, No. 5): paddle club (type 2) with short rib (1) at junction of blade and shaft; length, 48 inches. The elaborate carving of the blade and shaft, with the type of proximal end, creates a strong suspicion that the club is Tongan instead of Samoan. b, (70, No. 4). Paddle club (type 2) with rib (1) prolonged longitudinally at shaft junction and blade curving inwards beyond rib; length, 44 inches. The elaborate carving of blade and shaft is probably Tongan. c, (70, No. 6). Paddle club (type 2) with long oblanceolate, uncarved blade and short rib (1) without shoulder. Suspensory lug (3) present; length, 47 inches. d, (72, No. 1). Paddle club, intermediate between types 2 and 3. The rib (1) is fairly short but yet long enough to create a shoulder (2) on its proximal side. The blade has a concave-convex curve and a suspensory lug (3) is present. Length, 45 inches. e, (70, No. 3). Paddle club (type 3) with medium rib (1) and shoulder (2); the blade is leaf shaped with a concave-convex curve; the proximal end is flared and has a suspensory lug (3). Length, 46.5 inches. f, (72, No. 5). Paddle club (type 3) with medium rib (1) and shoulder (2); the leaf shaped blade is carinated (4); flared end with suspensory lug (3); length, 46 inches. g, (72, No. 4). Paddle club (type 3) with wider rib (1) forming a chevron with the apex distal and marked shoulder (2); wide blade with slight concave curve beyond the rib making the blade almost "straight edged"; flared proximal end with suspensory lug (3); length, 42 inches. h, After Kramer (18, vol. 2, Pl. 77, e). Paddle club (type 3) with wide rib (1), marked shoulder (2) and wide straight edge blade which is carinated (4); flared proximal end with suspensory lug (3).

Edge-Partington (10, vol. 1, p. 72, No. 3) figures a club (fig. 313 a) which shows a leaf form blade springing from a wide shoulder a little internal to the outer margins. He (10, vol. 1, p. 70, No. 2) also shows another club page 600(fig. 313 b) in which the point has evidently been broken off and the club trimmed with two points.

Churchill (5, p. 71) described 6 full sized Samoan clubs of this type, and a summary of measurements is as follows:

  • Total length—40.5 to 47 inches.
  • Blade length—12 to 16 inches.
  • Greatest width—3.75 to 6.5 inches.
  • Thickness—1.0 to 2.0 inches.
  • The maximum width in Churchill's series was at the cross rib.
Figure 313.—Paddle clubs (types 3 and 4):

Figure 313.—Paddle clubs (types 3 and 4):

a, after Edge-Partington (10, vol. 1, 72, No. 3). Paddle club (type 3) abberant form with leaf shaped blade forming sharp angles with wide shaft shoulder (2) without rib; flared proximal end with suspensory lug (3); length, 49 inches. b, After Edge-Partington (10, vol. 1, 70, No. 2). Paddle club, aberrant form of type 3, with medium rib (1) and shoulder (2); carved blade with bifurcated distal end probably due to broken single point being subsequently trimmed to two points (5); length, 34 inches. Though the club has a flared proximal end with a suspensory lug (3), its resemblance in carving to the clubs (fig. 312, a and b) creates the impression that it is wrongly labelled as Samoan. c, After Churchill (5, Pl. I, e). Fijian paddle club (type 4) with wide rib (1), distinct shoulder (2) and halbert shaped blade with serrations (5) on its proximal end; knob shaped proximal end. d, Fijian paddle club (type 4) with wide rib (1), shoulder (2) and serrations (5) on proximal end of halbert shaped blade; blade elaborately carved with plaiting and triangle motifs; proximal end flared but no suspensory lug. e, After Kramer (18, vol. 2, Pl. 74, q). Paddle club (type 4) with wide rib (1), shoulder (2) and serrations (5) on proximal end of halbert shaped blade; the proximal end has the typical Fijian flange (6). The club is in the Stuttgart Museum and is labelled "Samoa" but is undoubtedly Fijian.

Paddle clubs with very wide cross ribs. This division includes the type termed serrated clubs by Churchill. Though he includes Samoa in its distribution, his series of 10 clubs were all from Fiji except a doubtful form attributed to Samoa, which had the typical Fijian flat cap flange at the end of the handle. Kramer (18, vol. 2, pl. 74 g) figures one in the Stuttgart Museum, but the carving and handle end are evidently Fijian while another with a "Samoa" label (18, vol. 2, pl. 79, b) he relegates to Fiji. Edge-Part-page 601ington does not figure the type for Samoa. It is evident that the type does not belong to Samoa.

The range of measurements of Churchill's Fijian series is summarized below for comparison with the Samoan paddle type 3.

  • Total length—36 to 53 inches.
  • Blade length—11 to 26 inches.
  • Cross rib length—25 to 30.5 inches.
  • Blade width—6 to 13.75 inches.
  • Thickness—0.75 to 1.75 inches.

The extraordinary lengthening of the cross rib is seen. The widest cross rib in Type 3 was 6.5 inches and the shortest in Type 4 is 25 inches, practically four times as long. The club in the Stuttgart Museum figured by Kramer as labelled "Samoa" is shown in figure 313 e. In the absence of authentic examples from Samoa, the very appearance of the club shows it to be outside the range of thought of the Samoan club maker. Two of the Fijian clubs are shown in figure 313 c, and d.

In summing up, it may be said that the Samoans specialized on the paddle club of Type 3. It evidently became a favorite club type with the warrior and hence with the club maker. Owing to their specialization, Type 1, if ever used as a weapon, disappeared, Type 2 was being displaced, and Type 4 was never evolved locally or adopted from Fiji by Samoan craftsmen.