Paddle, 1812-1842
Attribution unknown
© Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

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Paddle, 1812-1842

Though widely called paddles, this paddle from the Austral Islands (Tuha’a Pae) in French Polynesia, is not a functional paddle and was likely to have been used in dances or ceremonies. It is paddle shaped, but too spindly and weak to be used functionally. It is likely this paddle was made for tourists visiting during the 19th century.

In 2001, historian Rhys Richards undertook a global census of Austral Islands paddles, locating 850 examples and estimating that there are probably 1000 in museum collections around the world. The origins of paddles such as this one highlight the early 19th century transactions that perhaps marked the beginnings of the local tourist trade.



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