Exceedingly Fine and Rare Maori Ceremonial Digging-Stick Step, Ngati Kahungunu Tribal Area, Hawke Bay, North Island, New Zealand

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 114
Exceedingly Fine and Rare Maori Ceremonial Digging-Stick Step, Ngati Kahungunu Tribal Area, Hawke Bay, North Island, New Zealand

Sold for US$ 30,000 inc. premium

African & Oceanic Art

2 Dec 2015, 10:00 PST

Los Angeles

Exceedingly Fine and Rare Maori Ceremonial Digging-Stick Step, Ngati Kahungunu Tribal Area, Hawke Bay, North Island, New Zealand
teka
Wood, paua shell, red sealing wax remnants
height 5 7/8in (15cm)

Finely carved, most likely by stone, as a large non-sexed human figure with domed bulbous head, notched haliotis shell eyes (one now missing), hands on chest, rolling spirals on the shoulders and hips, an intricately carved openwork scrolling design coming out of the mouth of the figure, another set of inset circular haliotis shells at the base (one now missing); fine glossy brown patina with tool marks indicative of being carved without the use of metal tools.

PROVENANCE
Private Collection, France
Private Collection, England

Cf. Starzecka, et.al., The Maori Collections of the British Museum, London, 2010, figs 1246-1250 for similar examples, and figs 1240-1245 of examples still attached to the digging stick (ko).

According to David Simmons (personal communication, October 2015), "This is a ceremonial step for a digging step or ko. Ko were used to dig the ground before the planting of kumara (sweet potatoes). The first task in preparing a new garden was to cut down the existing vegetation, leave the remains to dry then burn them. The ash was a rich source of potash which was provided by the MANUKA (Leptosperman sp) of which the litter and ash are phosphate rich. The slash and burn system of gardening was used. When the garden is ready, the first thing that must happen is asking the gods like Rongo, god of agriculture, for his goodwill. The permission of Tane, god of forests had been asked when the vegetation was cut down. Now the agriculture god was asked for his goodwill. This was done with a digging step with a ceremonial step lashed on it after prayers. During these invocations a tohunga or expert priest would intone the prayers and ceremonially make the first digs into the garden in which the first sweet potato plants would be placed. The workers would then continue the digging but with plain ko steps. The ceremonial step would then be removed and placed into a special repository until the next use. Such ceremonial steps were highly valued by the people and sometimes if the were used by an acclaimed expert were named. The steps were in charge of the paramount chief of the tribe or confederation of tribes. An image of stone or other material would be placed in the gardens to remind the god that his help had been invoked; these are often named for the particular tribal god. This is a question of mana and was also invoked by the women bearing chin tattoo being asked to walk through the gardens. Such women are the daughters of the paramount chief whose mana or prestige is thus called on. Overall if the right prayers have been done then the garden will succeed. If it does not, a new god is sought.

The ko (presented here) has been made with stone tools probably in the 18th century. The style and information conveyed by the carving are that it was made in the Ngati Kahungunu tribal area of Hawke Bay on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The carving identifies the ariki or paramount chief for whom it was made. Unfortunately the iconography of the figures has been lost in the mists of time and one can only speculate as to the interaction of the spiritual and human world portrayed. (It is) A very fine object."
Contacts
Exceedingly Fine and Rare Maori Ceremonial Digging-Stick Step, Ngati Kahungunu Tribal Area, Hawke Bay, North Island, New Zealand
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Arms & Armor, Coins and Medals, Motor Cars, Motorcycles, Wine & Whisky

27.5% on the first $3,000 of the hammer price;
25% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of $3,000 up to and including $400,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of $400,000 up to and including $4,000,000;
and 13.9% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of $4,000,000.

Payment Notices

Payment for purchases may be made in or by (a) cash, (b) cashier's check or money order, (c) personal check with approved credit drawn on a U.S. bank, (d) wire transfer or other immediate bank transfer, or (e) Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover credit, charge or debit card. Please note that the amount of cash notes and cash equivalents that can be accepted from a given purchaser may be limited.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.