Dance Paddle (Soa)
Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Bougainville Province, Buka Island
Buka people, early 20th c.
Wood and pigment (61.86.2)
Gift of Mr. Allan Gerdau
The Buka people were seafarers and expert oarsmen who relied on paddles to navigate the water. The Buka not only created utilitarian paddles, but also made ceremonial dance paddles (soas), which men held and manipulated in special ceremonies. Paddles were important tools and symbols of strength, adventure, and manhood to the Buka people.
Carved from lightweight soft wood, soas were decorated with low relief designs, which represent important spiritual aspects of Buka life. The most common decorative motifs include bird imagery and kokorra. Kokorra are spirit figures who either squat or stand and have upraised hands. They are characterized by large eyes and pointed headdresses similar to those worn by adult men. This dance paddle depicts three kokorra and a series of geometric designs.
Closed on Mondays and University holidays
"I still remember the feeling of awe and disbelief when I was alone and walked in the room with those casts." --Ruth Tofle, chair of architecture, winner of the 2013 distinguished faculty award from the MU Alumni Association